A celestial object hurling towards the planet is arguably one of humanity's deepest fears. From the blockbuster hit, "Armageddon," to the less successful "Deep Impact," Hollywood has been just as obsessed with depicting the catastrophic event. Unfortunately, an object from space is more than a movie trope. Based on a recent observation by a team of scientists from the University of Notre Dame, one such object is coming towards earth at rapid speeds.
Last week, Hubble Space Telescope astronomers published a report detailing an immense cloud racing towards the Milky Way at 700,000 miles per hour. The gas dubbed "Smith Cloud" was discovered in the 1960s and its trajectory has been studied since. According to astronomers, the cloud travelled outside of the Milky Way 70 million years ago. Currently, the "Smith Cloud" is making a comeback and is expected to return to the galaxy in 30 million years.
"The cloud is an example of how the galaxy is changing with time. It's telling us that the Milky Way is a bubbling, very active place where gas can be thrown out of one part of the disk and then return back down into another" explained Andrew Fox, Teal leader of the Space Telescope Science Institute.
Fox and the rest of his team further explain how the Smith Cloud's return would be a major event for the Milky Way. According to the astronomers, the Smith Cloud returning to the galaxy would bring about the formation of new stars. The cloud is roughly around 9,800 light years long as such it has enough materials in order to produce over two million stars.
"Our galaxy is recycling its gas through clouds, the Smith Cloud being one example, and will form stars in different places than before. Hubble's measurements of the Smith Cloud are helping us to visualize how active the disks of galaxies are," added Fox.