Milky Way Galaxy Has Dark 'Noodles' Moving Around

First Posted: Jan 22, 2016 09:55 AM EST

It is possible that invisible, noodle-shaped structures resembling lasagne sheets and hazelnuts might be floating around in the Milky Way. These noodle-like structures are most likely "lumps" within the thin gas between the stars in the Milky Way, according to a study by CSIRO researchers.

"They could radically change ideas about this interstellar gas, which is the Galaxy's star recycling depot, housing material from old stars that will be refashioned into new ones," Dr. Keith Bannister, an astronomer and coauthor of the study.

The researchers used the CSIRO's Compact Array telescope to carry out their observations of one of the lumps which allowed them to determine its shape. For many years, astronomers have noticed signs of strange objects and radio waves coming from a bright, distant galaxy known as a quasar with high strength. They predicted that this activity was from the Milky Way's invisible "atmosphere," a thin gas of charged electrical particles that fills the space between the stars.

"Lumps in this gas work like lenses, focusing and defocusing the radio waves, making them appear to strengthen and weaken over a period of days, weeks or months," Bannister said. "These structures are real, and our observations are a big step forward in determining their size and shape."

The findings of this study were published in Science.

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