Mapping the Cosmos: Unveiling the Impact of Galaxies’ Explosions

Mapping the Cosmos: Unveiling the Impact of Galaxies' Explosions

Did you know that oxygen and nitrogen gas, the same gases we breathe on Earth, can also be found in space? A recent study published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society provides a high-resolution view of how these elements travel through the universe.

Gas outflows from galaxies occur when stars explode in supernovae, releasing a mixture of gas and heavy elements like oxygen and sulphur. These outflows not only spread heavy elements throughout space but also play a crucial role in star formation within galaxies.

Observing these outflows is challenging because the gas is much fainter than the light emitted by the galaxy itself. As a result, only a few galaxies in the nearby universe have been studied. This lack of data has limited our understanding of these outflows, making each new discovery valuable.

Gas outflows are essential for regulating star formation in galaxies. As galaxies grow through star formation, the most massive stars eventually explode as supernovae, carrying gas out of the galaxy. This creates outflows that remove gas from galaxies and control the rate of star formation.

The focus of this research was the spiral galaxy NGC 4383, which showed signs of an outflow. To gather more information about its evolution, scientists used the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) mounted on the European Southern Observatory’s VLT. The data collected revealed a massive outflow of gas extending 20,000 light-years from the galaxy’s center, containing a mass equivalent to 50 million times that of our Sun.

MUSE not only provided images of the galaxy but also spectra of light from each pixel. By analyzing these spectra, scientists could map the movement of gas and chemical elements within NGC 4383. They discovered turbulent shells and chimney-like structures within the outflow, caused by the violent supernova explosions.

The gas was observed escaping at a staggering rate of over 200 kilometers per second. The outflow carried heavy elements like oxygen, sulphur, and nitrogen, which pollute the space around the galaxy. However, this pollution is beneficial as these elements are essential for life as we know it.

These findings are part of the MAUVE project, which aims to understand star formation and the chemical evolution of galaxies in detail. The researchers believe that there are still many surprises to come from this project.