Expo/Science & Industry/Whispers From the Cosmos

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Lifting the Veil

Millimeter Image of Star-forming Region "S106" Credits

Utilizing the BIMA array's high resolution capabilities, astronomers observe a wide range of objects from the planets in our solar system to gigantic gas jets exhibited by galaxies millions of light years away. Nearer home, in the outskirts of the solar system, the BIMA array can image comets carrying carbon- and nitrogen-containing molecules. Formed in the deep chill of interstellar space, these same molecules are thought by some scientists to have seeded the Earth with the chemistry of life.

Interstellar space is not empty but contains regions filled with a rich variety of molecules. These same regions provide a birthplace for stars. As such, they hold the keys to understanding how molecules form in space and how stars are born and evolve.

Active molecular and star formation appears to take place at the center of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Much remains unknown about the galactic center. What powers its activity? Clues may be found by comparing the radio emissions from the cores of other galaxies to those detected from the center of the Milky Way.

Though seemingly scattered across the vastness of the cosmos, stars, molecular clouds and galaxies cannot be fully understood in isolation from each other. Knowing how the universe works demands that we study its interactions across all scales of space. There are no boundaries to the thrill of discovery!

Margeret Meixner, University of Illinois
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QuickTime Movie (2.1 MB); Sound File (1.2 MB); Text

Our Solar System

The BIMA array's varied capabilities make it suitable for observing a wide range of objects, including comets, planets and the Sun.

Stellar Nurseries

Astronomers believe that stars are born within massive, swirling clouds of gas and dust.

Star Death

The death of a star replenishes the interstellar medium with dust, atoms and molecules, supplying new material for another cycle of starbirth and stellar evolution.


Astronomers are searching the center of the Milky Way for the chemical precursors of life. In doing so, they hope to unravel how the chemistry of the early Earth evolved into living matter.

The Galactic Center

While some astronomers are studying the chemistry at the galactic center, others are peering into its dark. Might a massive black hole lurk there?

Beyond Our Galaxy

Astronomers hope to gain a more "global" understanding of how star formation on grander scales influences the shapes of galaxies throughout universe.

Looking through Many Windows
Up to Seeing the Invisible

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Copyright 1995, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois

NCSA. Last modified 11/10/95