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.
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.
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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• 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.