the dark heart of the Milky Way

A team led by Adam Ginsburg, an astronomer at the University of Florida, using the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has made a surprising discovery in a dark region of the Milky Way called “The Brick.” This study, published in The Astrophysical Journal, shows a large amount of frozen carbon monoxide (CO) in the cloud, much more than expected. Despite the presence of CO, which normally indicates favorable conditions for star formation, The Brick has an unusually low star formation rate. These results challenge established theories of star formation and suggest the need for critical review.

The study shows that despite the abundance of CO, the structure of “El Ladrillo” does not correspond to expectations: the gas inside is warmer than in similar clouds. These observations challenge our understanding of the presence of CO at the center of our galaxy and the critical relationship between gas and dust. Ginsburg points out that with the JWST they open up new possibilities for measuring molecules in their solid phase and provide a more comprehensive view of their existence and transport in space. Traditional CO observation has been limited to gas emission, but revealing the distribution of CO ice in this huge cloud requires intense backlighting from stars and hot gas. This discovery represents a significant advance in understanding the origins of the molecules that make up our cosmic environment.

These are just the team’s initial findings from a small sample of their JWST observations of The Brick. Ginsburg plans to conduct a larger study of celestial ice to better understand the relative amounts of CO, water, CO2 and complex molecules. This work with JWST and its advanced filters represents an unprecedented opportunity to expand our cosmic exploration.

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JWST shows widespread CO ice and gas absorption in the Galactic Center Cloud G0.253+0.016

Photo: University of Florida

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