ASTRONOMERS this week announced the discovery in our solar system of a huge wide mass of dust and gas, known to be the birthplace of new stars. Despite it only being discovered recently the huge mass (the size of three million suns) is only about 500 light-years from us, incredibly close in terms of galactic scales. To give some idea of the size of the phenomenon, it is an estimated 9,000 light-years (60 quadrillion kilometres) long and 400 light-years wide.
Known as the Radcliffe Wave the discovery was made by Gaia, the European space telescope. These astral bodies are in effect where stars are born, formed when clouds of gas and dust undergo a gravitational collapse. Scientists admit they were astonished both by the size of something so close to the Earth and the shape of it, long and thin rather than more spherical as they might have expected. Sometimes referred to as a nursery for the stars it is believed that our own sun may have been formed in the Radcliffe Wave, about 5 billion years ago.
Pictured: An image of the Radcliffe Wave (Harvard University)