Hydrogen Clouds Discovered Between Andromeda And Triangulum Galaxies

Article written: 8 May , 2013
Updated: 23 Dec , 2015
by

Score another point for the National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Telescope (GBT) at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Green Bank. They have opened our eyes – and ears – to previously undetected region of hydrogen gas clouds located in the area between the massive Andromeda and Triangulum galaxies. If researchers are correct, these dwarf galaxy-sized sectors of isolated gases may have originated from a huge store of heated, ionized gas… Gas which may be associated with elusive and invisible dark matter.

“We have known for some time that many seemingly empty stretches of the Universe contain vast but diffuse patches of hot, ionized hydrogen,” said Spencer Wolfe of West Virginia University in Morgantown. “Earlier observations of the area between M31 and M33 suggested the presence of colder, neutral hydrogen, but we couldn’t see any details to determine if it had a definitive structure or represented a new type of cosmic feature. Now, with high-resolution images from the GBT, we were able to detect discrete concentrations of neutral hydrogen emerging out of what was thought to be a mainly featureless field of gas.”

So how did astronomers detect the extremely faint signal which clued them to the presence of the gas pockets? Fortunately, our terrestrial radio telescopes are able to decipher the representative radio wavelength signals emitted by neutral atomic hydrogen. Even though it is commonplace in the Universe, it is still frail and not easy to observe. Researchers knew more than 10 years ago that these repositories of hydrogen might possibly exist in the empty space between M33 and M32, but the evidence was so slim that they couldn’t draw certain conclusions. They couldn’t “see” fine grained structure, nor could they positively identify where it came from and exactly what these accumulations meant. At best, their guess was it came from an interaction between the two galaxies and that gravitational pull formed a weak “bridge” between the two large galaxies.

The animation demonstrates the difference in resolution from the original Westerbork Radio Telescope data (Braun & Thilker, 2004) and the finer resolution imaging of GBT, which revealed the hydrogen clouds between M31 and M33. Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF Credit: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF.

Just last year, the GBT observed the tell-tale fingerprint of hydrogen gas. It might be thin, but it is plentiful and it’s spread out between the galaxies. However, the observations didn’t stop there. More information was gathered and revealed the gas wasn’t just ethereal ribbons – but solid clumps. More than half of the gas was so conspicuously aggregated that they could even have passed themselves off as dwarf galaxies had they a population of stars. What’s more, the GBT also studied the proper motion of these gas pockets and found they were moving through space at roughly the same speed as the Andromeda and Triangulum galaxies.

“These observations suggest that they are independent entities and not the far-flung suburbs of either galaxy,” said Felix J. Lockman, an astronomer at the NRAO in Green Bank. “Their clustered orientation is equally compelling and may be the result of a filament of dark matter. The speculation is that a dark-matter filament, if it exists, could provide the gravitational scaffolding upon which clouds could condense from a surrounding field of hot gas.”

And where there is neutral hydrogen gas, there is fuel for new stars. Astronomers also recognize these new formations could eventually be drawn into M31 and M33, eliciting stellar creation. To add even more interest, these cold, dark regions which exist between galaxies contain a large amount of “unaccounted-for normal matter” – perhaps a clue to dark matter riddle and the reason behind the amount of hydrogen yet to revealed in universal structure.

“The region we have studied is only a fraction of the area around M31 reported to have diffuse hydrogen gas,” said D.J. Pisano of West Virginia University. “The clouds observed here may be just the tip of a larger population out there waiting to be discovered.”

Original Story Source: National Radio Astronomy Observatory News Release.

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14 Responses

  1. Soaku Hin says

    Armchair cosmologist here, this article has me thinking that protons are constantly created in the universe, not just at the big bang. From our perception, a XYZt and UVWt multiverse interaction, where UVWt radiates threshold energy into our XYZt condensing as matter, and the black holes on our side send the energy back or elsewhere.

    • Olaf2 says

      Protons are only created when they converts the same amount of energy into mass.

    • Torbjörn Larsson says

      I think you have to define your terms. QWERTY, “? energy”, “send”? And “back or elsewhere” is simply everywhere, so why don’t you say so?

      We have never seen multiverse interactions at all, and current CMB data seems to exclude it. That protons are “constantly created” doesn’t say much except that relativity permits it and it has been observed to happen on small scales. But certainly not on the large scale seen here:

      When hearing hoof beats, think horse not zebra.

      The horse is that it is primordial hydrogen as everywhere large scale. The zebra is that it is something never seen, never expected.

    • lcrowell says

      That is unlikely. In the Velinde type of eternal inflation with nucleation bubbles or pocket universes they may interact. These interactions most likely occurred early on in the transition that generated a pocket. In such an interaction there might be the generation of radiation, but if protons were generated one needs to understand how matter/anti-matter asymmetry results from this. It is also extremely unlikely such a bubble-bubble interaction is in our galactic neighborhood. Any such interaction in the past is most likely imprinted on the CMB anisotropy.
      LC

    • Member
      Aqua4U says

      Ahh finally… a breath of fresh air! Recent observations of the Milky Way’s (And now other galaxies) polar axis halo’s indicate the presence of plasma jets or matter fountains – probably created by the super massive black hole(s) at the core of our galaxy? Part and parcel of the rotating plasma jets are the stupendously powerful gravitational and magnetic fields that confine them. These powerful fields are theorized to confine and collect anti matter also. Anti matter annihilation releases gamma rays. No other energy event is powerful enough to create the high energy gamma rays we see?

      Imagine the magnetic and gravitation fields that confine that swirling plasma tornado? Add layering and mixing due to coriolis forces and evidence the anti matter’s confinement is not perfect.. The gamma rays we see a result?

      Take a close look at the recent ultra high UV images of the Milky Way and M31? I’ve counted as many as six possible jets at our galaxy’s core indicating at least 3 co orbiting sources? There are also a number of similar plasma jets visible in high UV images at the core of M31 which also emits gamma rays in polar halos.

  2. AstroLorraine says

    The GBT opens our eyes to the universe, not our ears. Radiowaves are low-frequency EM waves, not sound.

  3. Member
    Aqua4U says

    GBT rocks.. but I can’t wait to ask ALMA about it! Could the hydrogen have been created by the galaxy’s central black hole(s) polar jets? Anti matter annihilation events providing the energy for nucleosynthesis? I note here the recent discovery of a gamma ray halo at the Milky Way’s central poles.

  4. great we humans have discovered this, it’s the end of whatever life is to be on those galaxies ….

  5. Torbjörn Larsson says

    Lensing has seen DM filaments between galaxies, but seeing localized DM clouds seems to be a step up.

    Westerbork Radio Telescope

    Ha. I temporarily thought the name was slightly borked, but apparently not.

  6. Astroraider says

    could some of the missing matter that “dark matter” is supposed to explain – perhaps the spaces between galaxies aren’t particularly empty at all …

  7. lcrowell says

    There seems to be lots of over speculation here. This is just hydrogen in the local cluster that is a diffuse remnant from galaxy formation.
    LC

  8. Spect Tre says

    Too many telescopes and sky surveys and the Space Monkeys can’t find something before the Oort cloud…. How hilarious!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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