CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A new study led by a West Virginia University graduate student has revealed a never-before-seen cluster of gas clouds between two galaxies that could potentially fuel the formation of new stars.
The Andromeda and Triangulum galaxies, which are neighbors to the Milky Way, are made up of a large number of stars. The new study, led by student Spencer Wolfe in WVU's Department of Physics, was released in this week's issue of Nature, a weekly journal that highlights original scientific research, according to a WVU news release.
Wolfe worked with physics professor Daniel "D.J." Pisano and researchers from Case Western Reserve University, the University of Maryland and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank.
The researchers detected the clouds using the National Science Foundation's Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope at the NRAO. Earlier observations of the Local Group, a galaxy group that includes the Milky Way, have indicated that diffuse hydrogen gas might exist between its members, according to the release.
But such a detailed view has never been observed before.
"The question we're trying to answer is in what way is the Local Group and its members evolving," Wolfe said. "A lot of people tend to forget that when they see pictures of the Milky Way that we're embedded in it. If it's evolving, we're going to evolve with it so understanding the details of how galaxies like the Milky Way can acquire new gas and keep forming stars is important."
To read the full study in Nature, visit http://tinyurl.com/cvb29o6.