New images of huge filamentary structures of gas and dust from the Herschel space observatory reveal how matter is distributed across our Milky Way galaxy. Long and flimsy threads emerge from a twisted mix of material, taking on complex shapes.
This image shows a filament called G49, which contains 80,000 suns’ worth of mass. This huge but slender structure of gas and dust extends about 280 light-years in length, while its diameter is only about 5 light-years across. In the densest and coolest clumps, the seeds of new generations of stars are taking shape. A brighter clump of matter is visible at the left tip of the wispy thread. This filament is about 18,000 light-years away. The image is oriented with northeast toward the left of the image and southwest toward the right.
Image credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/Ke Wang et al. 2015
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