You know how you find a small object hidden between your other possessions and wonder “How did that get there?” well something similar happened with astronomers after they discovered a new structure in the Milky Way.
The Cattail, which was recently discovered in the spiral arm, is a long huge curl of gas and astronomers are not sure if it had always been a part of the galactic spiral arm or was newly made. It is one of the largest filaments of gas that has been discovered in our galaxy and has already been published in a journal called The Astrophysical Journal Letters. The structure “appears to be so far the furthest and largest giant filament in the galaxy,” written by a team of astronomers from Nanjing University in China in the paper.
Alternatively, astronomers believe that the Cattail could be a part of a new spiral arm but that reasoning is also puzzling since the huge structure doesn’t follow the full wrap style of the galactic disk. To study the new structure in-depth, a Chinese team from Nanjing University used a huge Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope to look for atomic hydrogen (HI) clouds around the Cattail and map the arrangement of the Milky Way’s arms from within. “While these questions remain open with the existing data, the observations provide new insights into our understanding of the galactic structure,” the researchers wrote.
Our position inside the Milky Way makes it tricky to figure out its actual size and three-dimensional structure and calculate the distances between different cosmic objects. So it comes as no surprise when astronomers don’t find something significant or newsworthy when trying to map objects but sometimes even the smallest of structures can change the perspective of the whole galaxy!