James Webb discoverаs huge cloud of frozen carbon at the center of the Milky Way

December 6, 2023  22:31

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has identified a significant presence of carbon-monoxide ice within a massive molecular gas cloud known as "The Brick," situated near the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Designated as G0.253+0.016, The Brick exists in the Central Molecular Zone, a colossal collection of nebulas with a total mass 60 million times that of our sun.

While numerous clouds in this zone actively generate stars, The Brick earned its name due to its dark, slab-like appearance against the intense radiation of the Galactic Center. The enigma surrounding why The Brick has not initiated substantial star formation persists. Theories propose it could be a youthful cloud awaiting star formation or that turbulent gas or magnetic fields prevent its collapse, a prerequisite for star formation.

The JWST has added another layer to the mystery by revealing a significant amount of carbon-monoxide ice within The Brick. Although carbon-monoxide ice has been previously detected in the Galactic Center, primarily condensing on dust particles, its detection in the interstellar medium has been challenging. Hence, the abundance of ice in the nebulas at the galaxy's center surprised astronomers, led by Adam Ginsburg from the University of Florida.

Ginsburg emphasized: "Our observations compellingly demonstrate that ice is very prevalent there, to the point that every observation in the future must take it into account." Star formation necessitates extremely cold conditions, with molecular gas reaching temperatures near ten degrees above absolute zero. Despite the abundance of ice, the JWST found that the gas in The Brick is unexpectedly warm compared to other molecular clouds.

The next phase involves utilizing the JWST to uncover other types of ices present in The Brick and neighboring nebulas within the Galactic Center. Ginsburg explained, "With spectroscopy, we can measure those and get some sense of how chemistry progresses over time in these clouds."

Studying the galactic center holds cosmological significance, as the star-forming conditions there mirror those in the early universe. Theories propose that supermassive black holes originated from the gravitational collapse of massive molecular clouds. However, the mystery of what prevented these collapsing clouds from fragmenting into multiple stars instead of forming a singular black hole remains. Clues to these answers may lie within opaque nebulas like The Brick.

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