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Sep 28, 2022

Hubble detects protective shield defending a pair of dwarf galaxies

Posted by in categories: materials, space

For billions of years, the Milky Way’s largest satellite galaxies—the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds—have followed a perilous journey. Orbiting one another as they are pulled in toward our home galaxy, they have begun to unravel, leaving behind trails of gaseous debris. And yet—to the puzzlement of astronomers—these dwarf galaxies remain intact, with ongoing vigorous star formation.

“A lot of people were struggling to explain how these streams of material could be there,” said Dhanesh Krishnarao, assistant professor at Colorado College. “If this gas was removed from these galaxies, how are they still forming stars?”

With the help of data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and a retired satellite called the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE), a team of astronomers led by Krishnarao has finally found the answer: the Magellanic system is surrounded by a corona, a protective shield of hot supercharged gas. This cocoons the two galaxies, preventing their gas supplies from being siphoned off by the Milky Way, and therefore allowing them to continue forming new stars.

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