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Milky Way 'swallows gas clouds wrapped in magnetic field' to give birth to stars

Washington, Nov. 1 : Milky Way may have been swallowing "pills" - clouds of gas with a magnetic wrapper - to keep creating stars for the past eight billion years.


Alex Hill, lead author of a study of the Smith Cloud, said that clouds like this may provide the fuel for our Galaxy to make stars.

Dr Hill's team has found that the Smith Cloud has a magnetic field. It's 50,000 times weaker than the Earth's.

Hill said that the field is probably still strong enough to keep the cloud together.

CSIRO's Dr Naomi McClure-Griffiths, a member of the research team, said that this is one of the few such clouds large enough for us to be able measure its magnetic field.

Named after its discoverer, Gail Bieger (nee Smith), the Smith Cloud is at least two million times the mass of our Sun. If it were visible to the naked eye, it would look 20 times wider than the full Moon.

Travelling at 130 kilometres a second, the Smith Cloud is only 8000 light-years from Milky Way Galaxy's disk and will plunge into it in less than 30 million years.

The findings have been published in The Astrophysical Journal.

--ANI (Posted on 02-11-2013)

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