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TCU astronomers discover origin of a massive gas cloud heading toward our galaxy


by: Paige Ruedy, CSE communications intern

Kat Barger, assistant professor of astronomy and physics at TCU, explores the evolution of galaxies by tracking the gas that flows in and out of them. Through her research, Barger is able to determine why some galaxies form stars while others do not. Barger and her students examine galaxies and galactic gas movements through the use of observatories around the world and in space.

Recently, Barger and one of her former students, Jacqueline Antwi-Danso ‘17, examined the skies through the lens of the Hubble Space Telescope. The project with the Hubble Space Telescope involves exploring a massive gas cloud that is hurling toward our galaxy, which has been named the Leading Arm. While at a conference, Barger had an idea that resulted in a proposal to point the Hubble Space Telescope at the brightest star formed by the Leading Arm. This proposal was led by Andrew Fox from Space Telescope Science Institute, where Antwi-Danso interned this past summer.

Until recently, the origin of the Leading Arm gas was unknown, however Barger and Antwi-Danso contributed to the recent discovery that the Leading Arm originated from the smaller of the two Magellanic Cloud galaxies. This discovery allows astronomers to better predict how the Milky Way galaxy will use the gas to make future generations of stars and planets. Learn more about their recent discovery.

This is not the first time that Barger and Antwi-Danso have studied the Leading Arm. You can learn more about their research experiences in Chile here.

Kat Barger and Jacqueline Antwi-Danso (courtesy photo)

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