A team of scientists from the University of Notre Dame, led by astrophysicist Nicolas Lehner, has discovered a mysterious halo of gas around the Andromeda Galaxy.
Andromeda is actually our planet’s nearest major galaxy, and scientists were able to identify the immense gaseous halo using the international Hubble telescope.
According to the team of researchers, the strange halo stretches to approximately 1 million light years from the Andromeda galaxy, halfway to Earth’s Milky Way.
This discovery will help astronomers learn more about how giant galaxies like Andromeda and the Milky Way evolved, and will reveal more information about their structure.
Lehner explained the recent findings, saying that this type of halos is actually the galaxies’ gaseous atmospheres.
The gas halos have the properties to control the rate at which the stars are being formed in the galaxies.
According to the experts, the gigantic gaseous halo contains as much mass in its gas as about half the stars located in the Andromeda Galaxy.
Andromeda Galaxy is known as Messier 31 or M31 and is the largest galaxy in the Local Group of galaxies which includes our planet’s Milky Way, as well as approximately 45 other galaxies known by the astronomers.
According to the experts, the Andromeda Galaxy has about 1 trillion stars, which is about twice as much as the number of stars the Milky Way has.
Scientists estimate that Andromeda is 25% more luminous than Milky Way, and is located at a distance of about 2.5 million light years away.
The new research suggests that the gaseous halo is actually an important feature of the Andromeda Galaxy, and its diameter is 100 times the size of the Moon.
The astronomers say the gas that forms the halo is not actually visible.
In order to be able to located and study it, the scientists had to look at bright objects in the background whose light was affected by the halo’s gas.
The team was able to study it thanks to the Quasars, which are extremely luminous bodies that resemble stars and are very distant. These bodies shine brightly because of the gas that falls onto the supermassive black holes they have inside their cores.
J. Christopher Howk, physics professor at Notre Dame and one of the lead researchers, explained that:
“As the light from the quasars travels toward Hubble, the halo’s gas will absorb some of that light and make the quasar appear a little darker in just a very small wavelength range.”
Image Source: phys