Milky Way `home to gas snakes`

Last Updated: Friday, October 7, 2011 - 12:23

Washington: Planetary scientists claim to have for the first time shown that the space between stars in the Milky Way is filled with continuously swirling and churning gas -- likened to a pit of writhing snakes.

An international team has published the image of the turbulent gas in the Milky Way in the latest edition of the `Nature` journal.

"This is the first time anyone has been able to make a picture of this interstellar turbulence. People have been trying to do this for 30 years," said team leader Professor
Bryan Gaensler of the University of Sydney.

Using the CSIRO`s Australia Telescope Compact Array, tuned to receive radio waves, the team studied a region of the Milky Way 10,000 light years away in the constellation Norma.

According to team member Prof John Dickey, the data was taken 12 years ago, "but it has turned out to be a very rich and interesting area".

"The radio emission that is unpolarised presents a fairly normal picture of the Milky Way disk, with cosmic rays and magnetic fields causing bright areas, particularly where new stars are forming.

"But when we studied the polarised emission, we saw structures that were completely different from the pictures that have been done before. It took several years for us to
understand the physical processes that shape the linear polarisation at radio frequencies.

"The results bring together the observations and the theoretical modelling to finally give a complete explanation for the images that we first saw those many years ago," he said.

PTI



First Published: Friday, October 7, 2011 - 12:23

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