On this page: INTERACTIVES, FIGURES, VIDEOS -- scroll down to see it all.
Explore the RadWave in 3D
This interactive 3D visualization of the Radcliffe Wave is available in the online version of the published Nature article. It was built using the plot.ly exporter plugin inside the glue visualization software. Click on any layer in the legend (at right) to turn it on and off, and see how the Radcliffe Wave compares to existing models for the Local Arm, as well as existing theories for the local arrangement of molecular gas, known as Gould's Belt. Analysis of the new 3D distribution of stellar nurseries indicates that the Radcliffe Wave is the Local Arm in the Solar neighborhood, and suggests that the Gould's Belt might be a projection effect, as the Wave contains many former Gould's Belt clouds!
Explore Individual Stellar Nurseries
The Radcliffe Wave researchers also analyzed in detail the 3D structure of individual nearby clouds. Each cluster of colored pixels (labeled by name) indicates an individual cloud. Click on any cloud to pull up its interactive distance map, and view the structure of dust along the line of sight in different regions of the cloud! This figure is powered by bokeh.
3-D distribution of local clouds (blue points). The position of the Sun is marked with a ⊙. The red points correspond to local clouds coincident with the Radcliffe Wave. The grayscale on the left "top down" panel show an integrated 3D dust map (from Green et al. 2019; see the Data page), that indicates that our sample of cloud distances is essentially complete. For an interactive version of this figure, including extra layers not shown here (e.g. model of the Gould’s Belt, log-spiral arm fits), see the Interactives section of this page. From doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1874-z
The Radcliffe Wave (red points) next to the Sun (yellow point) inside a cartoon model of our Galaxy in the WorldWide Telescope software. We are looking down on the disk of the Galaxy in this view, where the structure appears incredibly straight.
The Radcliffe Wave (red points) next to the Sun (yellow point) inside a cartoon model of our Galaxy in the WorldWide Telescope software. We are looking at the structure as if we are in the disk of the Milky Way. The structure undulates outside the disk of the Galaxy at least 500 light years -- hence its name, the Radcliffe "Wave".
The Radcliffe Wave clouds on the plane of the sky. It's only possible to see the that the Radcliffe Wave exists in 3D, which is why accurate distance measurements are so important! Filled circles indicate the stellar nurseries, while the open circles indicate the diffuse connections between nurseries. From doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1874-z
Another "top down" view of the stellar nurseries, with individual famous nurseries labeled by name. This catalog of 3D positions underpins the Radcliffe Wave results, and is the largest, uniform catalog of accurate distances to nearby star forming regions published to date.
The new catalog of distances is based on a new 3D dust mapping method which uses the colors of stars to infer the 3D positions of molecular clouds. Previous methods based on maser parallax observations are sparser and more expensive, but considered the "gold standard" in the field. This "1:1" plot shows that the method used to discover the Wave agrees with these traditional estimates, to within 10%! See the History page for a discussion of distances to star-forming regions, and how 3D dust mapping is changing the field.
The kinematics of the stellar nurseries was also analyzed as part of the Wave study. The top panel marks the stellar nurseries on the plane of the sky. The bottom panel shows the line-of-sight velocities of those nurseries based on CO spectral-line observations. The blue points indicate the observed velocities of the clouds, while the orange points indicate the velocities the clouds would have if they simply followed Galactic rotation. The offset between the two distributions indicates that the Wave is kinematically coherent, and decoupled from the rotation of the Galaxy! From doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1874-z
Movie showing the Radcliffe Wave (red) in a cartoon model of our Milky Way Galaxy, with the Sun shown in yellow.