The velocity of cosmic rays, which are small charged particles, can change from a small fraction to almost the speed of light via some of the most severe events that took place in the Universe. They are not a bad thing, but in large quantities, they can start to destroy whole galaxies.
A team of scientists recently ran simulations of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, and discovered that cosmic rays from a starburst occurrence are beginning to shatter.
Our galaxy has a whole suite of dozens of smaller satellite galaxies. The biggest ones are ht e LMC and the Small Magellanic Cloud, with the former located at 160,000 light-years from us. The LMC has a diameter of 14,000 light-years, and it orbits the Milky Way together with the Small Magellanic Cloud.
Besides rotating around the Milky Way, the LMC also orbits the Small Magellanic Cloud, and the gravitational interplay between the two galaxies can result in a lot of intense star formation, shortly lighting up in the cloud before settling back again.
Cosmic Rays are the Culprit in an Interesting Story of the Milky Way
The issue with the cosmic rays is their kinetic energy. Although they are separately tiny, their outstanding speeds mean they can produce massive damage. The cosmic rays hit the molecules of a gas cloud in the simulation, granting some of their energy and heating the gas up.
However, the gravity of the LMC is not powerful enough to hold the gas after rounds of focused star formation and supernova. The scientists have analyzed their simulations to see how far the hot gas could depart from the galaxy.
To examine this, the team has used the behavior of the Magellanic Stream, a stream of hot, thin gas that surrounds almost all the Milky Way. The researchers discovered that although the cosmic rays heated up the gas in the LMC, the gas remained inside.
The reason for this contradiction is the LMC’s direction as it falls toward the Milky Way. Because of this, the LMC floats through the free halo of gas that encircles the Milky Way. When it comes to the existence of the stream, scientists believe it has caused more gravitational interplay between the two Clouds than any impacts of cosmic rays.