Approximately 13.8 billion years ago, our universe was born as a result of a powerful explosion. 370 thousand years later, hydrogen was formed in it — the building blocks of stars, in the depths of which this element and helium create heavy elements.
Hydrogen is still the most common element in the universe, but individual clouds of hydrogen gas in the interstellar medium are difficult to detect. This makes it difficult to study the early phases of star formation, which can give clues about the evolution of galaxies and the entire cosmos.
But recently, an international team led by astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy noticed a massive strand of atomic hydrogen in the Milky Way, Universe Today reports. Named “Maggie” (Maggie), it is located about 55 thousand light-years away from us and is one of the longest structures ever observed in our galaxy.
The largest known clouds of molecular gas are usually about 800 light-years long, but “Maggie” reaches 3.9 thousand light-years in length and 130 light-years in width.
The process of converting atomic hydrogen into molecular hydrogen is still not fully understood, which makes this find especially valuable.
The researchers concluded that Maggie is an integral structure with approximately the same gas velocity in different areas. They also noticed that the gas is concentrated at various points along the filament in large clouds. It is in these environments that atomic gas will gradually condense into a molecular form, they believe.
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