Fermi discovers giant gamma-ray bubbles in the Milky Way

NASA image release November 9, 2010

 

To view a video about this story go to: www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/5162413062

 

Using data from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, scientists have recently discovered a gigantic, mysterious structure in our galaxy. This never-before-seen feature looks like a pair of bubbles extending above and below our galaxy's center.

 

But these enormous gamma-ray emitting lobes aren't immediately visible in the Fermi all-sky map. However, by processing the data, a group of scientists was able to bring these unexpected structures into sharp relief.

 

Each lobe is 25,000 light-years tall and the whole structure may be only a few million years old. Within the bubbles, extremely energetic electrons are interacting with lower-energy light to create gamma rays, but right now, no one knows the source of these electrons.

 

Are the bubbles remnants of a massive burst of star formation? Leftovers from an eruption by the supermassive black hole at our galaxy's center? Or or did these forces work in tandem to produce them? Scientists aren't sure yet, but the more they learn about this amazing structure, the better we'll understand the Milky Way.

 

To learn more go to: www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/GLAST/news/new-structure.html

 

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission.

 

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Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

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