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Descubren unas misteriosas burbujas de gas en el centro de la Vía Láctea

Un equipo internacional de astrónomos ha descubierto unas misteriosas nubes de gas frío y denso que parecen haber sido disparadas «como balas» desde el centro de la Vía Láctea. «Las galaxias parecen ser buenas en dispararse a sí mismas en el pie», ha dicho en un comunicado Naomi McClure-Griffiths, coautora del trabajo e investigadora en la Universidad Nacional de Australia. Según los autores, que han publicado sus conclusiones en «Nature», estas observaciones tienen importantes implicaciones para comprender el futuro de nuestra galaxia. El futuro de la Vía Láctea «Cuando te quedas sin una importante cantidad de masa, pierdes parte del material que podría ser empleado para formar estrellas», ha explicado McClure-Griffiths. «Si pierdes suficiente cantidad, la galaxia pierde su capacidad de formar estrellas». Por tanto, ha proseguido: «Poder observar pruebas de cómo la Vía Láctea está perdiendo su capacidad de formar estrellas es apasionante, y te hace plantearte qué va a pasar a continuación». Además de esto, los investigadores creen que estasa observaciones son importantes para estudiar qué procesos están ocurriendo en el centro de la galaxia, ocupada por un agujero negro supermasivo, de nombre Sagitario A* que interacciona con el entorno. Gas caliente... y gas frío «El viento en el centro de la Vía Láctea ha sido objeto de debate desde el descubrimiento, hace una década, de las llamadas "Burbujas de Fermi"», ha proseguido Naomi McClure-Griffiths. Estas estructuras son dos gigantescos orbes de gas caliente, que salen del centro de la galaxia, en perpendicular a su plano, y que emiten radiación el rango de los rayos X y los rayos gamma. Alcanzan una extensión de alrededor de 50.000 años luz. Ahora, los astrónomos han observado que aparte de este gas caliente, el centro galáctico también es una fuente de gas frío y muy denso. «Este gas frío es mucho más pesado, y no se mueve tan fácilmente», ha puntualizado McClure-Griffiths. Por ahora, los científicos desconocen cuál es el origen de este gas. Si ha sido expulsado por Sagitario A*, o si, en realidad, ha sido expulsado por miles de estrellas al núcleo galáctico. «Todavía no sabemos si es el agujero negro o la formación de estrellas el que produce este fenómeno», ha dicho Enrico Di Teodoro, director del estudio e investigador en la Universidad Johns Hopkins, en Estados Unidos. «Seguimos buscando la pista definitiva, pero el asunto se complica a medida que aprendemos más sobre él». Este tipo de burbujas se habían observado antes en otras galaxias, pero nunca en la Vía Láctea. La clave es que en las galaxias donde se había observado, hay agujeros negros supermasivos mayores que Sagitario A* y una mayor actividad de formación estelar, lo que incrementa la capacidad de las galaxias de expulsar material. «Como estas galaxias están obviamente muy lejos, no podemos observar esto con mucho detalle», ha dicho Di Teodoro. Por tanto: «Nuestra galaxia es casi como un laboratorio donde podemos intentar comprender cómo funcionan las cosas».
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