December 9, 2021

Beyond Going Long

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The Magellanic Current could be five times closer than we expected

Distances in space are difficult.

If you do not know exactly how bright an object is, it is very difficult to know how difficult it is. There are many things in the universe whose inner brightness is not well defined.

This means that sometimes we can be very wrong with spaces. Example: New simulations show that the massive structure surrounding the Milky Way may be much closer than we thought.

This structure is the Magellanic Stream, a massive stream of high-velocity gas that surrounds most of our galaxy.

This long trend of material originates in the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, dwarf-satellite galaxies that orbit each other and that will eventually be broken up by the Milky Way.

The gravitational interaction of the clouds ejected large amounts of gas, which is now spreading across Earth’s sky.

There are many things in the sky that are more visible than the Magellanic Stream, so knowing how they appear is an ongoing problem. It wasn’t until last year that a team of scientists discovered that the gas might have been stripped from the galactic halo of the Magellanic Clouds, the giant clouds and plasma that cover most galaxies.

Now the same team has used astronomical models to model the formation and evolution of the Magellanic Stream over 3.5 billion years – and they’ve found that it could be five times longer than we thought.

“The origins of the Magellanic Current have been a mystery for the past fifty years,” Here’s what physicist Scott Luchini said: Z University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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“We designed a new solution with our models. Surprisingly, the model brought the stream very close to the Milky Way.”

In their previous work, the team predicted that the stream should be surrounded by a corona of hot gas. So they did new modeling that includes this corona as well as a new model of clouds, indicating that they were only about 3 billion years ago.

When the two dwarf galaxies began to rotate, they did so in the opposite direction astronomers previously thought, according to a new team simulation. So when they started expelling gas from each other instead of moving away from the Milky Way, the Magellanic Stream moved toward our Milky Way galaxy.

This means that at its closest point, it is only 65,000 light-years from Earth. Previous estimates indicated a distance of between 325,000 and 650,000 light-years. This is a big deal. If the current is closer than we think, we need to rethink its main features.

“A modified distance changes our understanding of current,” Astronomer Andrew Fox said: Scientific Institute for Space Telescope. “This means that our estimates of the properties of many currents, such as mass and density, will have to be revised.”

The results mean that gas in the Magellanic Stream could start colliding with the Milky Way sooner than we thought, by injecting new material into it and creating shocks that would cause the gas to clump together and form new stars. According to the team’s calculations, this will begin to happen in a short period of time – only 50 million years.

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The results also mean astronomers have a new place to start looking for stars that should be in the Magellanic Stream. These stars were to be removed from the Magellanic Cloud along with the gas, but so far only a few, not explicitly, have been identified. The team’s model suggests that we’re looking in the wrong place now.

“Changes the current model,” Lucchini . said, “Some thought that the stars were too faint to be seen because they were too far away. But now we see that the stream is already in the outer part of the Milky Way.”

Future observations in this field could identify stars from the Magellanic Stream, which in turn will confirm the team’s findings.

The search was published in Astrophysical Journal LettersAnd