Hubble Sees Our Galaxy Sucking Up A Mysterious Amount Of Gas

Hubble Sees Our Galaxy Sucking Up A Mysterious Amount Of Gas

The Milky Way seems to be gobbling up a mysterious amount of gas”more than it spits back out, according to a new paper.

Our galaxy maintains a level of “stuff” through a feedback process: It eats up gas from the surrounding environment to form stars, and then it spits the gas back out via supernovas and stellar winds. Using data from the Hubble Space Telescope, a team of astronomers calculated that more mass appears to be flowing in than is flowing out”an unexpected result, according to a Hubble press release.

The researchers collected data from 270 views taken by the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph instrument on the

The authors note that the calculations are based on solely a snapshot of the Milky Way today, and that caution should be taken when trying to extrapolate the rates that mass is flowing over time, according to the paper. Additionally, the ultraviolet absorption by these high-velocity clouds is just one way to measure the rate that the galaxy is eating and spitting out gas. These measurements present a higher rate of gas flowing inwards than radio-based measurements. Plus, the authors write, they only looked at fast-moving clouds; maybe the slow-moving clouds would reveal a different story.

Ultimately, though a mystery is exciting, studies like these serve a more profound purpose: to understand how our galaxy and others fit into the grander scheme of the universe, and how they get the necessary material to form stars and, in turn, planets.