While it may seem much of space between star systems and galaxies is empty, tiny particles and clouds of dust can usually be found in much of the known universe, drifting aimlessly and filling the voids between galactic objects.
Except for a huge “cavity” some 700 light-years away from Earth.
Between constellations Perseus and Taurus, astronomers have discovered a spherical void spanning nearly 500 light-years in diameter. The so-called cavity is so large, that it can house over 150,000 variants of our solar system.
The discovery of this mysterious void, which is surrounded by molecular clouds – regions of space containing dense clouds of dust and gas, where new stars are born – could shed new light on the formation of stars.
Dubbed the Per-Tau Shell, researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), think the void could be the result of a giant supernova explosion, some 10 million years ago. The explosion likely triggered star formation by compressing the two molecular clouds—Perseus and Taurus—surrounding the void.
Map locating the Persues-Taurus Supershell. Credit: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).
According to Shmuel Bialy, the lead author of the study, and a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Theory and Computation at the Center for Astrophysics (CfA), hundreds of stars are either forming or already exist in the giant bubble. Either a supernova explosion at the core of the bubble pushed gas clouds outward forming what is known as the “Persues-Taurus Supershell”, or a series of supernovae over millions of years led to its creation over time.
The study suggests that the Persues and Taurus molecular clouds are co-dependant structures, formed together from a single supernova explosion. Bialy further added that the study’s findings show that when a star dies, its supernova generates a chain of events that could ultimately lead to the creation of new stars.
For the study, researchers created a 3D map of the huge bubble, and the surrounding molecular clouds using data from Gaia, the European Space Agency’s orbital observatory.
The findings of the study along with the methodology used in the study were published in the Astrophysical Journal.
Cover Photo: Shutterstock