New Milky Way map to help explain how galaxies form

2016-10-20 17:55
Image captured with the VISTA infrared survey telescope shows the central part of the Milky Way. (D Minniti, European Southern Observatory via AFP)

Image captured with the VISTA infrared survey telescope shows the central part of the Milky Way. (D Minniti, European Southern Observatory via AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Sydney - A new super-detailed hydrogen map of the Milky Way could help explain the mystery of how galaxies form, Australian and German scientists behind the project said on Thursday.

The decade-long HI4PI project, which used the world's largest steerable radio telescopes, provides an in-depth view of all the hydrogen gas in and around the galaxy that contains our solar system.

"We've basically put together a very complex map of hydrogen gases associated with our own Milky Way," Australian team leader Naomi McClure-Griffiths, a professor from the Australian National University, told AFP.

"Hydrogen is the most basic element, it's what everything is made from, and what we have achieved will help us understand better how galaxies form."

The study used telescopes in Parkes, Australia and Effelsberg, Germany to map neutral hydrogen, the most abundant element in space and the main component of stars and galaxies.

It revealed for the first time the fine details of structures between stars in the Milky Way.

"Very small gas clouds appear to have helped form stars in the Milky Way over billions of years," McClure-Griffiths said, adding that her research group was now using the data map to answer bigger questions about the Milky Way and neighbouring galaxies.

"How does the Milky Way get the new gas it requires to continue forming stars? And where are all of the small dwarf galaxies that must surround our Milky Way? The next steps will be exciting," she said.

University of Bonn astronomer Juergen Kerp said the project required more than a million individual observations and about 10 billion individual data points, significantly improving on previous work on the issue.

Although neutral hydrogen is fairly easy to detect with modern radio telescopes, mapping the whole sky was a significant achievement, he added.


"Radio 'noise' caused by mobile phones and broadcast stations pollute the faint emissions coming from stars and galaxies in the universe," said Kerp.

"So sophisticated computer algorithms have to be developed to clean each individual data point of this unwanted human interference.

"Next to the thousands of observing hours an even larger amount of time has been spent creating the final scientific data product released today."

Staveley-Smith said the new map would help with future work to be undertaken by the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) super radio telescope, which is expected to be partially operational from 2020.

Australia and South Africa were picked in 2012 to jointly host the SKA project, billed as being 50 times more powerful than present radio telescopes.

It will be used to explore exploding stars, black holes, dark energy and traces of the universe's origins some 14 billion years ago.

Read more on:    germany  |  australia  |  ska  |  space

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.