The Smith Cloud, imaged with the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope. (Image: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF)
These researchers have been studying a gas cloud falling into the Galaxy — a big one, called the Smith Cloud, after the woman who discovered it — and have found it has a magnetic field.
The field is weak, about 0.002% of the strength of Earth’s.
But the astronomers think it’s strong enough to hold the cloud together, so that it can deliver its payload of gas into the Galaxy’s disk.
The Cloud’s like a coated aspirin tablet that goes through your stomach undigested, then releases its contents when it hits your intestine.
Also known as Smith’s Cloud, it’s one of thousands of high-velocity clouds of hydrogen gas flying around the outskirts of our Galaxy.
Astronomers think their origins are mixed, some stemming from burst “bubbles” in the gas of our Galaxy, some being primordial gas, and some associated with small galaxies our Galaxy’s gravity is shredding from a distance. The Smith Cloud is probably either semi-primordial gas condensing from the halo of our Galaxy or gas stripped from another galaxy.