3D illustration of the massive spherical cavity in space. Credit: Alyssa Goodman/Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian

10 Facts About the Gigantic Cavity Found in Outer Space

Astronomers assume that the Per-Tau Shell was formed as a result of a supernova at its core about 10 million years ago. The effect of the blast supposedly pushed the gas in the region outward creating an empty void.

Using data from ESA’s Gaia space observatory, astronomers were recently able to compile three-dimensional maps of the shapes and sizes of molecular clouds in the vicinity of the Sun for the first time, and their subsequent analysis revealed a huge spherical cavity about 500 light-years in length. The findings and conclusions of scientists are presented in the Astrophysical Journal Letters


10 Things You Need To Know About the Gigantic Cavity in Space

Space is not empty

The universe is not empty at all. For instance, even the seemingly empty distances between stars are full of visible or invisible clouds of gas. At the same time, not the entire universe is filled with gas either. There are places in the universe that are completely empty and are usually called voids of space.

Cavity in space

Between the Perseus and Taurus molecular clouds, astronomers discovered an unexpected spherical cavity in space. And although it is surrounded by regions with active star formation, this massive void is completely empty.

Size, location, and name

Located approximately 700 light-years away from Earth, this cavity is massive – about 500 light-years in diameter. Astronomers have named it the Perseus-Taurus Supershell and have a couple of theories for its formation.

Theory number one

Astronomers assume that the Per-Tau Shell was formed as a result of a supernova at its core about 10 million years ago. The effect of the blast supposedly pushed the gas in the region outward, thus creating the void in question.

Theory number two

The second version is similar but more complex. Astronomers suggest that the formation could have been gradual and the result of numerous supernovae within the borders of the void over millions of years.

Data collection

Astronomers used data from ESA’s Gaia Satellite Observatory, used to create a three-dimensional map of the Milky Way. This is the most advanced instrument available for studying the structure and history of our galaxy.

The Perseus and Taurus molecular clouds

Using Gaia’s data and software called Glue, astronomers were able to create detailed 3D visualizations of the molecular clouds and discover the void in between.

Star formation

Another theory put forward is that the supernova that pushed the gas outwards from the cavity also influenced the star formation in the Perseus and Taurus molecular clouds.

When did it happen?

Based on the 3D reconstructions, astronomers believe that the supernova events that created the Per-Tau Shell occurred between 6 and 22 million years ago.

No longer expanding

Data shows that the cavity in space is no longer expanding, meaning that there have not been any supernovae events recently. The void simply remains between the two active star-forming regions like a monument in space.


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Sources:

Bialy, S. (n.d.). The Per-Tau Shell: A Giant Star-forming Spherical Shell Revealed by 3D Dust Observations. The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Center for Astrophysics. (n.d.). Gigantic cavity in space sheds new light on how stars form.
Phys.org. (2021, September 22). Gigantic cavity in space sheds new light on how stars form.
Starr, M. (n.d.). Astronomers have discovered a giant, empty cavity lurking in space. ScienceAlert.

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. My experience as a freelance writer began in 2018 but I have been part of the Curiosmos family since mid-2020. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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