The NASA X-ray Observatory Chandra has just been used to discover that our own Milky Way galaxy is actually surrounded by a ball of hot gases. As you can see in the CGI recreation above the area of space taken up by the gas dwarfs the galaxy at it’s center.
The cloud or halo of gas reaches out over a vast distance of deep space, in fact it’s radius is estimated to be around 300,000 light years. At this early stage of research the total mass of the gas cloud is considered to be on a par with that of all the stars in the galaxy put together.
With further studies Chandra’s new discovery could also go some way to explaining the mystery of dark matter. At presence huge amounts of the universe’s expected matter remain unaccounted for.
Although our Galaxies hot gas halo is huge in terms of mass, because it is spread out over such a phenomenal area of space it features a very low density. It’s due to the gas clouds low density why it has taken astronomers so long to detect it’s presence.
Scientists working on the study believe it likely most other galaxies are surrounded by hot gas in a similar way which would add up to huge amounts of extra mas throughout the universe. Again due to the low density these clouds would have so far gone undetected.
Determining a more precise estimate of the clouds mass will require working out the gases make up in terms of what percentage of it is hydrogen, oxygen etc. The temperature of the gas has been measured at over one million kelvins.
To view more images taken from the Chandra Observatory visit the NASA website. Also if you’d like to learn more about the theories of dark matter and dark energy they have a great article on the subject.