NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is the star of a new extraordinary discovery. Scientists affiliated to the University of Notre Dame and the University of Wisconsin-Madison contradicted what was so far known of the halo surrounding Andromeda Galaxy. The exciting findings are published in the Astrophysical Journal, awaiting their enthusiasts.
The gargantuan gaseous halo of Milky Way’s closest neighbor was proved to be 1,000 times more massive and six times larger than previously thought.
The new calculations that brought this discovery to light used distant quasars and their light anchor points to map the gaseous halo of spiral galaxy Andromeda. The outstanding innovation is represented by the breakthrough use of 18 quasars as opposed to only one so far. The scientific team is indebted to Hubble, the most important research tool this rewarding work.
Since its launch in space in1990, Hubble gathered a multitude of invaluable quasar data. This was now processed and used to analyze how material is distributed beyond the disk of Andromeda. The dimming of quasar emission painted a realistic and astonishing picture of the galaxy’s halo.
Imagine the 100 billion stars in the Messier 31 and then half of their mass diffused around the galaxy. That can turn into an overwhelming imagination exercise, but thankfully, scientists provided us with even more awe inspiring comparisons. If the Andromeda Galaxy were visible with the naked eye, it is now known that its halo would display 100 times the diameter of the full Moon.
What comes as an even greater surprise is that with the discovery that the dark halo is six times larger than previously known came the realization that it also trails approximately 1,000,000 years away from the Andromeda. Which bears the possibility of intersection with the halo of its twin galaxy, our own Milky Way.
It is exciting to contest previous knowledge of the two galaxies and realize that what was believed to be void space is in fact an encounter between the halos of the Andromeda Galaxy and the Milky Way. Although the halo of the Milky Way has not yet been analyzed, it isn’t implausible that it has a similar display to that of Andromeda.
Image Source: Centauri Dreams