The central molecular zone; the heart of the Milky Way. Credit: Henshaw / MPIA

Scientists Study a Mysterious Structure in our Galaxy Using Webb

Astronomers refer to it as "The Brick."


At the heart of our galaxy, the Milky Way, sits a puzzling structure referred to by astronomers as “The Brick.” Recent observations have unveiled surprising findings about this entity, raising questions and challenging long-held beliefs about our galaxy.

Known scientifically as an infrared dark cloud (IDC), “The Brick” is a massive cloud of gas, dense and turbulent. However, unlike other similar structures, it shows an unusually low level of star formation. The reason for this anomaly remains a topic of debate among scientists.

Milky Way’s Central Molecular Zone (CMZ)

The CMZ, a vast region within our galaxy, is home to dark molecular clouds that give birth to stars. This area contains an estimated 60 million solar masses of gas, making it a critical study area for astronomers. Amidst this vast complex lies “The Brick,” one of the most intriguing and studied IDCs.


With the aim of unlocking the mysteries of “The Brick,” astronomers have turned to the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Using carbon monoxide as a tracer, scientists hope to determine the movement and density of these interstellar clouds, providing vital insights into their structure and behavior.

A recent study, led by Adam Ginsburg from the University of Florida, presented new findings about “The Brick.” Titled “JWST reveals widespread CO ice and gas absorption in the galactic center cloud G0.253+0.015”, the research suggests that “The Brick” contains a larger amount of CO ice than previously believed. This discovery has profound implications for our understanding of star formation within the galaxy.

The Implications

Dense, cold gas regions typically favor star birth. However, despite the abundance of CO ice, “The Brick” has a star formation rate that is perplexingly subdued. These findings call for a reevaluation of established theories surrounding star creation in our galaxy.


The JWST continues to be instrumental in enhancing our knowledge of the Milky Way’s core. If its findings about the CO levels in “The Brick” stand, it could reshape our understanding of star formation processes not just in our galaxy but possibly in others as well. Further studies and observations are anticipated, with the astronomy community eagerly awaiting more data on “The Brick” and other structures within the CMZ.

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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