More than 140 years ago, astronomer Benjamin Gould identified an interesting ring in the sky. What seemed to be a ring was a wave of the star-forming gas wave with a length of over 3,000 light-years. A discovery related to the wave of gas has dramatically changed what we know about the structure, which is classified as Gould’s Belt.
Data collected with the help of the Gaia mapping survey infers that Gould’s Belt is a part of a considerably larger structure, a massive, coiling wave of gas and dust with a size that is 9,000 light-years long and 400 light-years wide. It also spans 500 light-years above and below the galactic plane.
The new wave has been named the Radcliffe Wave after the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study, was the research was conducted. Many of the stellar nurseries found within Gould’s Belt are present within this wave.
Scientists revealed new details on the massive star-forming gas wave in the Milky Way
According to current data, the Radcliffe Wave is the most massive gaseous structure found in the Milky Way, but it is not the largest structure located in the galaxy. For example, the Fermi gamma-ray bubbles have a span of 50,000 light-years.
Astronomers have been quite surprised by the discovery since they did not expect that such a massive amount of mass could exist or be located in the Milky Way. The sheer size of the Radcliffe Wave is fascinating, and the nature of the wave will force researchers to rethink what is known about the 3D structure of our galaxy.
The information offered by the Gaia satellite has allowed researchers to craft the most accurate 3D map of the Milky Way to date. This map was being studied by the scientists who discovered as they wanted to learn more about the structure of Gould’s Belt. Further research will take place as astronomers will try to learn more about the formation of the Radcliffe Wave.