Detailed Map Of Hydrogen In The Milky Way Produced By Astrophysicists

First Posted: Oct 20, 2016 05:04 AM EDT

Australians astronomers have worked with researchers from Germany to produce the most detailed map of hydrogen distribution in the Milky Way using two of the largest radio telescopes in the world. The project, HI4PI, is a combination of a German survey and an Australian survey that required more than 1 million discrete observations in the sky and nearly 10 billion data points. This helped the astronomers present the most detailed view of all the hydrogen gas present in and around Milky Way that may help in solving the mysteries around our galaxy.

Although hydrogen is one of the most abundant elements present in the Universe and it is the main component of the stars, it can be detected only using the radio waves, where there is a lot of interference from broadcast stations and devices such as mobile phones.

Professor McClure-Griffiths, the Australian National University (ANU), team leader for the Australian survey said that the study has revealed for the first time the minute details about the structures between stars in the Milky Way. She added that her research group at the university was using this information and data map to answer various questions about the Milky Way and neighboring galaxies, according to

"How does the Milky Way get the new gas it requires to continue forming stars? And where are all of the small dwarf galaxies that must surround our Milky Way? The next steps will be exciting," McClure-Griffiths said.

The map depicts the regions and the filaments of neutral hydrogen and the colors reflect the movement of the gas. The color is purple/blue while the gas moves towards us, and turns to orange/green while moving away from us. The brightness of the color indicates the amount of gas present and in the lower corner, Milky Way's two neighboring galaxies-Large and Small Magellanic Clouds can be seen.

The findings are soon going to be published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics. The data will be publicly accessible for free. The project is believed to be helpful with extragalactic observations.

"Like the clouds at the sky, all observations we receive from the distant universe have to pass through hydrogen in our own Milky Way," explained Benjamin Winkel, a part of the HI4PI project. He added, the HI4PI data allows to correct accurately for all these hydrogen clouds and clean the window we are watching through.

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