Why is the Earth inside a giant bubble in space?

A large space bubble encompasses the Earth, planets and several galaxies (NASA)

The Earth is part of a Solar System together with 8 other planets (nine, for those who still count the underprivileged Pluto, which lost its category in 2006, when the International Astronomical Union reclassified it as a dwarf planet).

Our Solar System is part of the galaxy called the Milky Way, which in turn is within a larger cloud, a kind of bubble, which groups other neighbors.

Now, researchers at Astrophysics Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute of the United States have created a 3D map that reconstructs the evolutionary history of the “local bubble, a 1,000-light-year-wide cavity of cold gas and dust that is responsible for the formation of all nearby young stars, including our sun.

A photograph of the Small Magellanic Cloud, a nearby dwarf galaxy that is merging with the Milky Way.  (JOSE MTANOUS)
A photograph of the Small Magellanic Cloud, a nearby dwarf galaxy that is merging with the Milky Way. (JOSE MTANOUS)

The study reveals that Earth and all stars and star-forming regions within 500 light-years of the planet they reside on the surface of this bubble, which is a good idea. Learning more about how Earth came to be inside the ‘Local Bubble’ could be another definitive step in better understanding our galaxy.” Catherine Zucker, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute and an author of the study.

And I add: “Essentially, we have a front row seat to the star formation that’s happening on the surface around us.Zucker says. But although astronomers have known about the local bubble for decades, this discovery did not take years to make. In fact, it was an accident.

According to the expert, the project started because they wanted to make a map of all the main landmarks, basically, in our galactic neighborhood. But what started out as a typical foray into the studio of the spiral arms of the Milky Way, became a fantastic revelation after the team noticed that the stars appeared to be coalescing near the surface of the bubble.

The experts used a software program called Glue and data from the Gaia space observatory to create a map of exactly where these stars are, the Zucker’s team was able to determine that the origin of the bubble comes from a series of supernova explosions dating back about 14 million years. These cosmic bubbles were created when interstellar gas was pushed outward by the explosions, forming expanding shells that fragmented and collapsed into nearby molecular clouds.

“Think of the Milky Way as having the shape of a very thin pancake. As supernovae explode in the center of the disk, the bubbles the reaction creates pierce holes in the surface of the “pancake” and influence its structure. Multiple bubbles can touch and even collide with each other,” Zucker said.

Such a reaction is why the team’s results also state that the local bubble structure isn’t actually bubble-shaped, but rather resembles a “galactic chimney.”

This star- and galaxy-studded image was captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), using data that was collected for scientific purposes.  (THAT)
This star- and galaxy-studded image was captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), using data that was collected for scientific purposes. (THAT)

We had to use data from many different sources, but the most critical component was GaiaZucker pointed out. Launched in 2013 by the European Space Agency, the Gaia observatory examines around 1 billion stars , or less than 1 percent of the stars in the Milky Way, in their mission to create the largest and most accurate map of the galaxy. By reconstructing the history of these star-forming regions, astronomers can see how these areas evolved over time.. That knowledge will be critical to understanding the role dying stars play in creating others, and what that means for the galaxy as a whole.

Adam Frank, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester who studies the birth and death of stars, said the local bubble is a “beautiful example” of how often star formation (stars created by exploding stars) is triggered. of a supernova). happens compared to other modes of training. And while our planet didn’t inhabit the local bubble until about 5 million years ago, Frank says Zucker’s research led him to wonder if life on Earth was affected at all by the proximity of exploding supernovae.

“One of the interesting things about supernovae and hypernova,” Frank says, “is that they may be able to sterilize their local environments. It’s possible that if you’re close enough, you could lose any life you have, or at least be affected by it”. Fortunately, we know that Earth’s early primordial soup did survive, but for some stars in our galaxy, death isn’t an end, it’s a rebirth.

“The life cycle of stars is essential to understand some of the things that matter most to us,” he concluded, believing that it is only through the recycling of the heavy elements that are released that the Earth supports life.


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