December 4, 2022


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Magi: A giant hydrogen cloud in the Milky Way

Magi: A giant hydrogen cloud in the Milky Way

The newly discovered structure owes its name to the largest river in Colombia, namely Magdalene. The length of the South American water formation is about 1,540 kilometers, which means that it is about one and a half times the size of the Vistula and about 25 trillion times smaller than the namesake, which is light years away.

The unusual structure, about 55,000 light-years from our planet, on the far side of our galaxy, is 3,900 light-years long and 130 light-years wide. This is a remarkable result in the field of molecular clouds many times ahead of other giant results.

To better visualize the big thing we’re dealing with, we can switch units, and then it turns out that Maggie spans a staggering 37 quadrillion kilometers. That’s the length of our planet’s equator multiplied by 926 billion, or just 352 quadrillion, the length of football fields. If the world’s greatest marathon runner had run at a constant top speed all the time, he would have run that distance in about 200 billion years, compared to the world 44 times smaller than this number.

But what exactly is a mage? Nothing but a huge cloud of hydrogen, the most famous element in the universe. Interestingly, it usually occurs on Earth in the form of diatomic molecules that are in pairs and are certainly more durable than alone, but in this case it is mainly atomic hydrogen, i.e. it occurs singly.

Scientists would like to know how hydrogen in space combines to form stars from giant clouds in later stages. Discovering Meggie can help a lot with this, but for now we can only speculate.

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