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Telescope Spots Hydrogen River in Space (PHOTO)

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Green Telescope Spots Hydrogen River in Space
Green Telescope Spots Hydrogen River in Space

Green Telescope Spots Hydrogen River in Space

In a possible first for science, astronomers from the University of West Virginia spotted what they described as a “river of hydrogen” pouring into a remote galaxy. The phenomenon may account for how some galaxies continually produce new stars. The unique find was discovered using what is called a Green Bank Telescope (GBT) which were donated by the National Science Foundation.

DJ Pisano, the astronomer making the discovery, said the hydrogen river helps explain the formation of new stars.

“We knew that the fuel for star formation had to come from somewhere, asserting that so far, however, they’ve detected only about 10 percent of what would be necessary to explain what we observe in many galaxies,” Pisano said.

“A leading theory is that rivers of hydrogen – known as cold flows – may be ferrying hydrogen through intergalactic space, clandestinely fuelling star formation. But this tenuous hydrogen has been simply too diffuse to detect, until now,” he added.

Prior to this find, astronomers could see new stars being formed but could only account for roughly one tenth of the hydrogen necessary for their formation. Stars could be seen actively forming requiring an influx of new hydrogen from somewhere. The answer may now be the hydrogen influx steadily pouring into the galaxy known as NGC 6946 as it would certain account for a larger percentage of the gas required for the formation of a new star.

This composite image shows the bright star-filled central region of galaxy NGC 6946 in optical light (blue), the dense hydrogen tracing out the galaxy’s sweeping spiral arms and galactic halo (orange), and the extremely diffuse and extended field of hydrogen engulfing NGC 6946 and its companions (red). (Credit: D.J. Pisano (WVU); B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF); Palomar Observatory – Space Telescope Science Institute 2nd Digital Sky Survey (Caltech); Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope)

This composite image shows the bright star-filled central region of galaxy NGC 6946 in optical light (blue), the dense hydrogen tracing out the galaxy’s sweeping spiral arms and galactic halo (orange), and the extremely diffuse and extended field of hydrogen engulfing NGC 6946 and its companions (red). (Credit: D.J. Pisano (WVU); B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF); Palomar Observatory – Space Telescope Science Institute 2nd Digital Sky Survey (Caltech); Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope)

In fact, astronomers had already developed the theory that such hydrogen rivers existed and accounted for the building material of new stars, so to speak. Pisano’s find has given astronomers the first glimpse of an actual sustained flow of hydrogen sufficient to add credibility to the theory. This find may well account for why some galaxies are actively crating new stars.

The results have been published in the Astronomical Journal.

Above: The galaxy (left) in yellow, the cloud of hydrogen in red, and the cloud it is 'feeding' off (right)

Above: The galaxy (left) in yellow, the cloud of hydrogen in red, and the cloud it is ‘feeding’ off (right)

On The Web:
Astronomers discover river of hydrogen flowing through space
http://zeenews.india.com/news/space/astronomers-discover-river-of-hydrogen-flowing-through-space_907372.html

Tomas Carbry possesses a decade of journalism experience and consistently upholds rigorous standards. His focus areas include technology and global issues.