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Wow! Gas Bridge In The Universe Stretches 2.6 Million Light-Years Across

A stream of gas 2.6 million light-years long stretches in green across this picture. The insets are of galaxies in the neighborhood, while the green circle represents the Arecibo telescope beam. Credit: Rhys Taylor/Arecibo Galaxy Environment Survey/The Sloan Digital Sky Survey Collaboration

A stream of gas 2.6 million light-years long stretches in green across this picture. The insets are of galaxies in the neighborhood, while the green circle represents the Arecibo telescope beam. Credit: Rhys Taylor/Arecibo Galaxy Environment Survey/The Sloan Digital Sky Survey Collaboration

How the heck did all that gas get there? Researchers have discovered an astonishing amount of it bridging galaxies, stretching across a stream that is 2.6 million light-years across. This is more than a million light-years longer than a similar stream that was previously found in the Virgo Cluster.

“This was totally unexpected,” stated Rhys Taylor, a researcher at the Czech Academy of Sciences who led the research. “We frequently see gas streams in galaxy clusters, where there are lots of galaxies close together, but to find something this long and not in a cluster is unprecedented.”

The atomic hydrogen gas is about 500 million light-years away and was spotted with the William E. Gordon Telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

Its origins are unknown, but one hypothesis postulateas that a larger galaxy passed close to smaller galaxies in the distant past, drawing out the gas as the larger galaxy moved apart again. Alternately, the large galaxy could have pushed through the group and disturbed the gas within it.

The research will be published shortly in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Source: Royal Astronomical Society

About 

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • bubenhaft August 7, 2014, 12:07 PM

    Small quibble: if, as the story says, this gas bridge is 500 million LY away, it’s hardly “In The Milky Way”, as the headline reads.

    • catseye August 7, 2014, 1:59 PM

      Poor choice of wording by the author.

    • forj August 7, 2014, 3:50 PM

      came here to say this. title fail

      • eigerzoom August 7, 2014, 6:33 PM

        I’ve seen a lot of this lately, and from what i’m gathering is the milky way, as seen by some, includes the local group, and the milky way galaxy is just part of the ‘milky way’, or perhaps it was found in the direction of the milky way galaxy and is actually behind it….though even still, i dont know that 500mly would still be within our local group or not. What I would hope is that perhaps this found gas could shed some light on The Great Attractor, if related.

  • Pete August 7, 2014, 8:31 PM

    Please, Ms. Howell, what’s up with something that is 500 MILLION light years away being a “Bridge in the Milky Way”? With all due respect, we’re not used to seeing you mess up like this.
    How *does* this gas relate to our galaxy?
    Does all this material this change the ratio of dark matter to normal matter?
    What is its density?
    Is, as is hinted above, the Great Attractor reaching out?

  • richard_e August 7, 2014, 10:43 PM

    Hi all, the title is fine. It is referring to the Milky Way, a position in the sky seen from earth (and my back yard!) and not the Milky Way Galaxy.

    Cheers,

    Richard

    • Navneeth August 8, 2014, 3:40 AM

      ??

      Please stop misleading people who may not know better.

  • Greg August 8, 2014, 2:35 AM

    This turned out a bit amusing. I think a correction is needed. If you click the link to the Royal Astronomical Society, it will clarify any questions. But you can also use common sense. The milky way is only 100k light years at it’s widest point. The stream is in fact 2.6 million light years across. The stream is indeed 500 million light years away.

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