Jun 25, 2019 | Updated: 07:39 AM EDT

How the Milky Way Dominates the Stellar Block—Dwarf Galaxies, Get Out of the Way

Oct 19, 2014 07:29 PM EDT

Artist's Rednering of the Milky Way's Hot Halo, Stripping Away Star-Forming Hydrogen from its Neighbors.
(Photo : NRAO/AUI/NSF) Artist's Rednering of the Milky Way's Hot Halo, Stripping Away Star-Forming Hydrogen from its Neighbors.

It's no big secret that humans tend to think of themselves as the center of the universe. It's a flaw that has countlessly been proven wrong as science emerged and showed a different view of the world a around us. However, as it turns out, our galaxy may also be to blame for believing it too is the center of the universe.

Recent astronomical studies published earlier this summer revealed that distant spiral galaxies much like our own Milky Way galaxy actually siphoned stellar material from nearby neighbors. But what the studies failed to mention was that the Milky Way too was a galactic bully to nearby galaxies in the making, who find its gaseous gravity a pain in the process of growing. Researchers operating the Green Bank Telescope of National Science Foundation in West Virginia recently published a study in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters after revealing that neighboring dwarf galaxies are mysteriously missing many gases required for the formation of stars. And it's a phenomenon that astronomers are saying is entirely the Milky Way's fault.

"The observations reveal a great deal about the size of the hot halo and about how companions orbit the Milky Way Galaxy" lead author of the study with the Royal Military College of Canada, astronomer Kristine Spekkens says.

As the largest spiral galaxy surrounded by a compact group of irregularly shaped dwarf galaxies, the dense Milky Way has established quite a large gravitational pull felt by many of its surrounding neighbors. And data collected by the researchers' radio observations show a distinct boundary of galaxies around the Milky Way completely devoid of hydrogen, while all beyond that boundary are forming freely.

"What we found is that there is a clear break, a point near our home Galaxy where dwarf galaxies are completely devoid of any traces of neutral atomic hydrogen" Spekkens says. Beyond that, extending nearly 1,000 light years beyond the edge of the Milky Way, dwarf spherical galaxies become rare, while their gas-dense irregular counterparts flourish.

While it is still not clear why or how the Milky Way is able to strip its neighbors of the necessary gases, it is believed that the hot halo surrounding the galactic disk may be dense enough to alter the composition of nearby dwarf galaxies in the making. Due to the cosmic pressure created by the million-mile-per-hour orbiting of the galaxy, the Milky Way is theoretically capable of stripping dwarf galaxies of the important neutral hydrogen gases, putting a halt on all star formation in the neighborhood.

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