Hydrogen Rivers May Flow Across Intergalactic Space

Hydrogen Rivers May Flow Across Intergalactic Space

Hydrogen Rivers Cold Flow

Observations from the Green Bank Telescope suggest that some stars form using hydrogen stolen from nearby galaxies.

There's a pretty common misconception that outer space is nothing but empty blackness because... well, look at it. Empty blackness all around. Still, the more we look, the more we find that space is filled with all kinds of bizarre phenomena, from starless planets, to abnorably massive orbits, to rivers of hydrogen flowing between galaxies. That last point is a recent discovery from the National Science Foundation's Green Bank Telescope, and astronomer D.J. Pisano believes it could fill some gaps in theories of star formation.

"We knew that the fuel for star formation had to come from somewhere. So far, however, we've detected only about 10 percent of what would be necessary to explain what we observe in many galaxies," Pisano explained. "A leading theory is that rivers of hydrogen - known as cold flows - may be ferrying hydrogen through intergalactic space, clandestinely fueling star formation. But this tenuous hydrogen has been simply too diffuse to detect, until now."

One of these possible hydrogen cold flows was seen moving into NGC 6946, a galaxy located between the Cepheus and and Cygnus constellations, 22 million light years away. Compared to the relatively calm Milky Way galaxy, star formation is far more active in NGC 6946, and cold flows might offer an explanation. Cold hydrogen, intergalactic space gas never heated by stars or supernovas, is either being drawn into the galaxy from nearby bodies or is a remnant of when NGC 6946 passed by a neighboring galaxy long ago.

Further study is required to confirm these initial observations, such as whether noticeable star populations exist in the flow's filament structure. After all, phenomena like hydrogen spilling between galaxies has never been seen before, and was only spotted on the Green Bank Telescope because it uses a higher detection threshold than most telescopes. Regardless, one hopes the study can shine more light into how galaxies develop, not to mention provide visually stunning displays for science-fiction movies.

Source: The Astronomical Journal, via TG Daily

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Man, it sometimes hurts to know that I can't possibly ever see an intergalactic hydrogen river in person in my lifetime.

There's a pretty common misconception that outer space is nothing but empty blackness because... well, look at it. Empty blackness all around.

Not to sound rude, but maybe look at it when it isn't cloudy...?

RA92:
Man, it sometimes hurts to know that I can't possibly ever see an intergalactic hydrogen river in person in my lifetime.

Ah, it's probably more boring-looking than you can imagine anyway. That photo in the news header is likely colored artificially, as are most photos of galaxies and nebulae.

There are rivers in the ocean of space!

Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...

(Seriously, though, I'm guessing galaxies steal a great melange of things from each other as they pass on by.)

Oh space, you so crazy! Making scientists scratch their heads on a daily basis, even Stephen Hawking can't always explain the crazy shit you do... Keep it up space!

Sort of humorous that the Green bank Observatory found hydrogen, while the state is now in need of uncontaminated water. Now to find flows of oxygen and industrial neglect negated.

Sort of reminds me of the old adage, Dont go grocery shopping while hungry. So I guess thirsty people are going to be fixated on finding elements of water.

What people don't understand is interplanetary and interstellar space is effectively a perfect vacuum, but there are hydrogen and helium atoms in it at a density of about 1 atom per cubic meter or some other ridiculously thin density. I just didn't think they'd find flows between galaxies. Flows that probably are taking more than the age of the universe to move an individual particle.

Cue sci-fi writers bringing back the whole space-craft that looks like a Spanish galleon trope. Despite the fact that these flows are probably slower than Earth's river and ocean currents, they will make hydrogen rivers into a routine form of space travel. If you will excuse me, I have a novel to go write.

Fanghawk:
There's a pretty common misconception that outer space is nothing but empty blackness because... well, look at it. Empty blackness all around. Still, the more we look, the more we find that space is filled with all kinds of bizarre phenomena, from starless planets, to abnorably massive orbits, to rivers of hydrogen flowing between galaxies.

space is pretty much blackness all around. there are such objects but the distance between them is pretty much unimaginable to humans. 99,999999% of space is actually nothing, its just that when we see all these objects and imagine them in the area of our solar system it looks filled with stuff, but in reality you would take years flying from one object to another.

 

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