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Remote Antarctic telescope reveals gas cloud where stars are born

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Posted February 21, 2014
Remote Antarctic telescope reveals gas cloud where stars are born
A UNSW-led team has used a telescope in Antarctica to identify a giant gas cloud in our galaxy which appears to be in an early stage of formation. Image is of the PLATO-R observatory at Ridge A. The HEAT telescope is the black object on stilts at left, the instrument module is the yellow box and the solar panel array is on the right. Credit: Geoff Sims
Using a telescope installed at the driest place on earth – Ridge A in Antarctica – a UNSW-led team of researchers has identified a giant gas cloud which appears to be in an early stage of formation.

Giant clouds of molecular gas – the most massive objects in our galaxy – are the birthplaces of stars.

“This newly discovered gas cloud is shaped like a very long filament, about 200 light years in extent and ten light years across, with a mass about 50,000 times that of our sun,” says team leader, Professor Michael Burton, an astronomer at UNSW Australia.

“The evidence suggests it is in the early stages of formation, before any stars have turned on.”

The results are published in The Astrophysical Journal.

The team is using the High Elevation Antarctic Terahertz telescope, or HEAT, at Ridge A, along with the Mopra telescope at Coonabarabran in NSW, to map the location of gas clouds in our galaxy from the carbon they contain.

At 4000 metres elevation, Ridge A is one of the coldest places on the planet, and the driest. The lack of water vapour in the atmosphere there allows terahertz radiation from space to reach the ground and be detected.

Read more at: Phys.org

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