For the past 150 years, the prevailing view of the local interstellar medium has been based on a peculiarity known as the Gould Belt1-4, an expanding ring of young stars, gas and dust, tilted about 20 degrees to the Galactic plane. However, the physical relationship between local gas clouds has remained unknown because the accuracy in distance measurements to such clouds is of the same order as, or larger than, their sizes5-7. With the advent of large photometric surveys8 and the astrometric survey9, this situation has changed10. Here we reveal the three-dimensional structure of all local cloud complexes. We find a narrow and coherent 2.7-kiloparsec arrangement of dense gas in the solar neighbourhood that contains many of the clouds thought to be associated with the Gould Belt. This finding is inconsistent with the notion that these clouds are part of a ring, bringing the Gould Belt model into question. The structure comprises the majority of nearby star-forming regions, has an aspect ratio of about 1:20 and contains about three million solar masses of gas. Remarkably, this structure appears to be undulating, and its three-dimensional shape is well described by a damped sinusoidal wave on the plane of the Milky Way with an average period of about 2 kiloparsecs and a maximum amplitude of about 160 parsecs.
- Pub Date:
- February 2020
- Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies;
- Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics
- Published in Nature on 7 January 2020. For data, interactive visualizations, and more information see: http://tinyurl.com/radwave (https://sites.google.com/cfa.harvard.edu/radcliffewave/)