Astronomers have discovered the largest object in the Milky Way

Astronomers believe a giant gas cloud called “Maggie” could be the largest known object in the Milky Way galaxy.

The gas cloud was uncovered by astronomers at the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg and has since been confirmed to be the largest known object in the entire galaxy.

Maggie was named by Colombian astronomer Juan D. Soler, after the largest river in his home country, the Río Magdalena.

Largest object in Milky Way
Credit: ESA/Gaia/DPAC & T. Müller/J. Syed/MPIA)

Maggie is a cluster of hydrogen gas that extends a whopping 3,900 light-years long and 130 light-years wide. According to researchers, she’s currently floating more than 55,000 light-years away from Earth.

To put that in perspective, one single light-year equates to around 9.7 trillion kilometres. The diameter of the Sun is only 1.4 million kilometres. So you could stack more than 27 billion Suns on top of each other, and they wouldn’t even extend across the entire length of Maggie.

Even the galaxy’s second-largest known gas cloud is five times smaller than Maggie.

But experts aren’t just excited about Maggie’s size. 92 per cent of the cloud is made of atomic hydrogen which is rare for gas clouds in space.

The team that discovered Maggie plans to research the gas cloud further, but if you’d like to read a more technical explanation, you can find one here.