A giant gas cloud is coming toward us at 700,000 miles per hour

- Hubble Space Telescope astronomers have found the trajectory of a long known about giant gas cloud; it’s headed for Earth.  Well, not precisely.  The Smith Cloud, as it’s called, is an 11,000 light year long and 2,500 light year wide ball of gas.  As of right now, and for the past 70 million years or so, it’s been rotating around the outskirts of the Milky Way galaxy.  But the “what goes up must come down” adage has never been so true.  That’s because this gas was thrust out of the Milky Way millions of years ago and is now coming back down to its origins.  The Hubble released this imagery to explain…

The diagram shows the 100 million year-long-trajectory of the Smith Cloud as it arcs out of the plane of our Milky Way and then returns like a boomerang.  Hubble Space Telescope measurements show that the cloud, because of its chemical composition, came out of a region near the edge of the galaxy’s disk of stars 70 million years ago.  The cloud is now stretched into a shape of a comet by gravity and gas pressure.  Following a ballistic path, the cloud will fall back in to the disk and trigger new star formation.  Not just a few, but millions of new stars could be created by these gases. 

So should we run to the stores and stock up on milk and bread and wait for the end of the world?  Well, not exactly.  This cloud won’t even reach the outskirts of our galaxy for another 30 million years.  Not to mention, the location that it enters our galaxy in is thousands of light years away.  Now, that doesn’t mean that our solar system won’t be affected by the gases themselves or the gravitational forces that these millions of new starts have on the Milky Way.  But it would be several hundred million years before that could happen, if at all… so relax.

If the Smith Cloud were to appear in our night sky, this is what it might look like.  It would take up far more of our view then the moon…

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