Cosmic Steam Jets and a Lot of Molecules Observed by Astronomers

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The ALMA telescope in Chile allowed a team of scientists to discover a lot of jets of warm water vapor that can be seen streaming as a new star is formed. In this stellar nursery, these astronomers also found ‘footprints’ of a lot of different molecules.

Changing how we see our Universe

Chile’s ALMA telescope has been used to change our view of Universe by showing us how the invisible parts look like. It does this through an array of antennas which are incredibly precise, used for studying a comparatively high-frequency sliver of radio light. This sliver consists of waves that vary in length from several tenths of a millimeter to millimeters.

Just now, scientists tried ALMA at its best, testing its limits to catch electromagnetic waves which are between infrared light and radio waves. Normally, you couldn’t do it from the ground because they require extreme precision and sensitivity, which ALMA has, and a stable and dry atmosphere. The ideal atmospheric conditions have been met on April 5, 2018, when scientists pointed ALMA towards a strange region in the Cat’s Paw Nebula.

What did they find?

The region known as NGC 6334I is a star-forming complex and it is placed at 4300 light years from our planet. At lower frequencies, ALMA picked up a turbulent star formation which represented an extremely dynamic environment and inside the nebula was a wealth of molecules.

First, ALMA observed jets of water vapor which were streaming away from one of the biggest protostars which normally couldn’t be observed. However, ALMA can detect the signal coming from such a cosmic source.

Then, surrounding the massive star-formation regions, ALMA found a really complex wealth of molecules. These findings were received with extreme enthusiasm and prove that ALMA really can show us the unknown parts of the Universe.

As our second lead editor, Anna C. Mackinno provides guidance on the stories Great Lakes Ledger reporters cover. She has been instrumental in making sure the content on the site is clear and accurate for our readers. If you see a particularly clever title, you can likely thank Anna. Anna received a BA and and MA from Fordham University.