Astronomers Discover 'Gangotri Wave' Connecting Two Arms of Milky Way

Astronomers Discover 'Gangotri Wave' Connecting Two Arms of Milky Way
© Provided by News18 Astronomers Discover ‘Gangotri Wave’ Connecting Two Arms of Milky Way

An international team of astronomers has found a long thin filament of dense gas connecting two of the arms of the Milky Way galaxy. The newly discovered element, which is similar to the barb of a feather, fans outwards from its central quill. The team of scientists have named the ‘feather’ as Gangotri, taking inspiration from the Indian glacier which is the source of the Ganga river. Interestingly, the Milky Way is called ‘Akash Ganga’ in Hindi and other Indian languages, meaning ‘the river Ganga in the sky’, astronomer Veena VS noted, as reported by ScienceNews. Veena, who is conducting her postdoctoral research at the University of Cologne in Germany, is one of the astronomers who made the discovery of the Gangotri wave. The team used data from the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) radio telescope based in Chile. Scientists looked at the clouds of cold monoxide gas using the APEX telescope to find the 6,000 to 13,000 light-year-long filament. The feather stretches from the Milky Way’s minor Norma arm to another limb called the 3Kpc (3 Kilo Parsec) arm. The study was published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters earlier this month.

The Milky Way contains some 100 billion stars that feature in the four main spiral arms — two major, two minor — and a number of fragments. Scientists have known for some time that galactic arms have such feathers but because studying the Milky Way from inside is very difficult, discovering such features in our own galaxy is unusual.

According to scientists, one of the interesting features of the Gangotri feather is its wavy nature. The filament keeps wobbling up and down over a course of thousands of light years. Astrophysicists don’t know the cause of the wobble yet. “The distinct wave-like shape and its peculiar orientation make this cloud, named as the Gangotri wave, one of the largest and most intriguing structures identified in the Milky Way,” they write in the research.

Scientists believe that the discovery is an important feat in astronomy’s long-term mission to map our entire Milky Way. Scientists hope to find more features of our home galaxy in future. “One by one, we’ll be able to map the Milky Way,” Veena was quoted as saying by ScienceNews.

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