In 2019 we already saw that the Milky Way was far from flat, but rather a contortionist. In his study we have been describing its shape, even as “a hamburger with too much lettuce”, and in the most recent map of the Milky Way The existence of the Large Magellanic Cloud and its journey through our neighborhood has been confirmed.

The Large Magellanic Cloud (and the Small one) has been making scientists dizzy for years, considering its pattern of movement one of the great cosmic mysteries that surround us. One of the hypotheses is that they would be disappearing and this new map also speaks of the disappearance, but as for what would collide with the Milky Way in 2 billion years.

We have caught you, Big Cloud, and you are getting closer and closer

Although the most recent missions have allowed us to see the Milky Way in impressive detail, there is still much to know, especially what is not seen. We refer to dark matter, another of the great mysteries whose resolution involves great difficulty because it is even difficult to infer it.

Hence, this map, the result of a work published in Nature, has been so interesting, since beyond giving us more data on the shape of our galaxy, what it has achieved is to demonstrate the presence, shape, size and location of the Large Magellanic Cloud, in addition to giving more information about his strange displacement. And it is related to the presence of dark matter in the Milky Way.

The study was carried out using the information from Gaia (ESA) once again, in addition to that from the Neowise telescope (NASA), specifically the data collected between 2009 and 2018. The researchers focused on the outermost region of the Milky Way, known as the galactic halo, with a low density of stars.

Via Lactea HaloVia Lactea Halo Representation of the halo in the Milky Way and the Magellanic Clouds. Image: Nature

It is in that region where they locate a large amount of dark matter, which, as we remember when “seeing” its possible appearance (if we could see it), is considered to be 23% of all matter in the universe. We can’t see it because does not interact with lightIn fact, we know that it exists by detecting its gravitational influence, and in this map what they have seen is the path that would have drawn the Big Cloud.

According to the astronomers of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, authors of the work, the Large Magellanic Cloud “has sailed through the galactic halo of the Milky Way like a ship through water, creating a trail of stars behind it” . Besides that, in its space journey the Cloud would have left a trail of dark matter in its wake.

We see the representation of all this in this animation, seeing the space that dark matter would occupy in the halo and the path that the Large Cloud (LMC by Large Magellanic Cloud). And another curious aspect is that finally the displacement of the Cloud is determined as much as possible, which as anticipated is approaching us but not only in passing, but to collide with the Milky Way in 2 billion years as its orbit is reduced by interaction with dark matter.

In fact, this map is interesting because allows to extend the study of dark matter, considered the skeleton or scaffolding of the universe. The researchers believe that it may lay a new foundation (along with additional studies and more data) for different theories about the nature of dark matter. Among them is the one that can be made up of particles, which fits into various simulations such as the one we mentioned when talking about “seeing” it.

Imagen | NASA/CXC/UMass/Q.D. Wang; Radio: NRF/SARAO/MeerKAT

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