Raging galactic 'winds' of gas detected

PARIS, May 9 (UPI) -- A European space telescope detected "winds" of cosmic gas streaming from galaxies that may have the power to bring star formation to a halt, astronomers say.

The winds discovered by the European Space Agency's Herschel infrared space observatory blow at speeds of more than 600 miles a second, 10,000 faster than winds in a terrestrial hurricane, an ESA release said Monday.


These "winds," or molecular gas outflows, are an important discovery because stars form from molecular gas, and these outflows are robbing some galaxies of the raw material they need to make new stars, researchers said.

If the outflows are powerful enough, they could even halt star formation altogether.

Galaxies with the most vigorous outflows are losing mass at a rate of 1,200 times the mass of our sun every year, the astronomers said.

These winds could be generated by the intense emission of light and particles from young stars, by shock waves from the explosion of old stars or they may be triggered by the radiation given off as matter swirls around a black hole at the center of a galaxy, they said.

"By catching molecular outflows in the act, Herschel has finally yielded long-sought-after evidence that powerful processes with negative feedback do take place in galaxies and dramatically affect their evolution," Goran Pilbratt, ESA's Herschel Project scientist, said.


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