Astronomers have captured the slow death of a nearby galaxy

File Science News

UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) – The Small Magellanic Cloud, located about 200 thousand light years from Earth, is dying. Slowly the galaxy loses its ability to give birth to new stars. Over time, it goes out and becomes a beam of intergalactic gas.


Thanks to the Australian Pathfinder square kilometer grid (ASCAP), astronomers could see the slow death of the Small Magellanic Cloud in the smallest detail. A study published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

“We were able to observe the powerful outflow of hydrogen gas from the Small Magellanic Cloud,” said the astronomer at the Australian National University Naomi McClure-Griffiths. – This means that the galaxy may eventually lose the ability to form new stars if it loses all the gas. Galaxies that cease to form stars gradually sink into oblivion. This is a kind of slow death of the galaxy.”

The Small Magellanic Cloud is very small — only seven thousand years in diameter (less than one tenth of the Milky Way). However, it can be seen with the naked eye in the southern hemisphere. It is one of several satellite galaxies orbiting our galaxy, and is also part of a kind of dual galactic system along with the Large Magellanic Cloud.

These two dwarf galaxies revolve around each other, simultaneously turning around the Milky Way.

Using the incredibly broad field of view of ASCAP, McClure Griffiths and her team conducted a study of the Small Magellanic Cloud as part of a major study of the evolution of galaxies.

They were able to capture the entire galaxy in one picture. This provided them with an unprecedented view of the leakage of atomic hydrogen – a critical component of star formation. The scientists also managed to make the first accurate measurement of the amount of mass lost by the dwarf galaxy.

In their work, the team demonstrated that the leakage of cold atomic hydrogen stretched for at least two kiloparsecs (6523 light years) from the star-forming bar of the galaxy.

According to calculations, the leakage was formed in the period from 25 to 60 million years ago. And the process was very rapid. It contains approximately 10 million solar masses of gas – or about three percent of the total atomic gas in the galaxy.

Researchers believe that the outflow of atomic gas is at least an order of magnitude higher than the star formation rate. In other words, the Small Magellanic Cloud loses atomic hydrogen faster than it manages to generate new stars.