Washington: A team of researchers, using a telescope installed at the driest place on Earth-Ridge A in Antarctica-have identified a giant gas cloud that appears to be in an early stage of formation.
Giant clouds of molecular gas the most massive objects in our galaxy-are the birthplaces of stars.
Team leader, Professor Michael Burton, an astronomer at UNSW Australia, said that this newly discovered gas cloud is shaped like a very long filament, about 200 light-years in extent and 10 light-years across, with a mass about 50,000 times that of our Sun.
He said that the proof suggests it is in the early stages of formation, before any stars have turned on.
The discovery of the new galactic cloud, which is about 15,000 light-years from Earth, will help determine how these mysterious objects develop in the interstellar medium.
One theory is that they are formed from the gravitational collapse of an ensemble of small clouds into a larger one.
Another involves the random collision of small clouds that then agglomerate. Or it may be that the molecular gas filament is condensing out of a very large, surrounding cloud of atomic gas.
The results have been published in The Astrophysical Journal.