The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has unveiled the inner secrets of a dense, dark cloud called G0.253+0.016, affectionately known as “The Brick,” located at the heart of the Milky Way. Led by astronomer Adam Ginsburg from the University of Florida, the research team utilized the JWST’s unique ability to observe in the infrared spectrum, allowing penetration through the thick dust and gas of the molecular cloud.
The findings present a puzzling revelation that challenges current understanding of star formation. The Central Molecular Zone around the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole is a region dense with molecular clouds, providing the material for star formation. However, the extreme thickness of these clouds hinders observations in most wavelengths.
The Brick is among the densest molecular clouds in the Milky Way, and the JWST’s infrared capabilities provided unprecedented visibility into its core. Unexpectedly, the researchers discovered an abundance of carbon monoxide (CO) ice, indicating conditions suitable for star formation. However, the cloud showed a surprising lack of ongoing star formation, contrary to expectations.
One notable distinction found by the team is that the interior of The Brick is notably warmer than other similar clouds. The reason for this temperature difference remains unclear, prompting further investigations to understand the underlying dynamics.
The revelation also highlights the underestimation of CO abundance and the ratio of dust to gas in the galactic center. The JWST’s findings challenge previous assumptions and emphasize the need to account for the prevalence of CO ice in future observations.
As the research team continues their investigations, they aim to unravel additional details about the chemistry and composition of The Brick, providing insights into the complex processes governing star formation in the heart of the Milky Way.