A comet-shaped cloud named Smith is 11,000 light-years long and 2,500 light-years across and on a 700,000 mile per hour collision course with our very own Milky Way Galaxy. When this cloud reaches our neighborhood, scientists propose that is may have enough gas to produce 2 million suns! But where did this monstrous cloud come from? Thanks to the brilliant Hubble Space Telescope astronomers, we now know that this powerful cloud came from…our very own Milky Way.
“The cloud is an example of how the galaxy is changing with time,” Andrew Fox of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. “It’s telling us that the Milky Way is a bubbling, very active place where gas can be thrown out of one part of the disk and then return back down into another.”
To realize this was the case, astronomers measured the chemical composition of the massive cloud and found it to be rich in sulfur. “By measuring sulfur, you can learn how enriched in sulfur atoms the cloud is compared to the sun,” which can indicate the presence of other heavier elements.
However, the presence of sulfur has led other commentators to liken this massively destructive bubble of galactic gas to a fart. Although this a gross mischaracterization, it is nonetheless humorous. The scenario is like farting in your car and opening the windows to be courteous to your passengers but not counting on sending the fart cloud back into your friend’s face in the back seat.