Earth falls into a 'bubble of nothingness' 1,000 light-years wide

The Earth, and the whole Solar System, is strangely floating in the middle of empty space, according to research led by the Harvard & Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

Dubbed the "Local Bubble," it's a region of space that is distinct from other regions of the galaxy that contain the Earth's Milky Way. This invisible bubble has a dense and cool "shell" of neutral gas and dust, and inside is an area of ​​almost nothingness, which is very low density compared to the rest of the galaxy.

According to Science Alert, the discovery comes from a project that aims to map the positions and movements of stars in the Milky Way within a radius of 650 light-years from the Solar System.

Picture 1 of Earth falls into a 'bubble of nothingness' 1,000 light-years wide
Graphic depicting the "Local Bubble", a large void that the Solar System just entered 5 million years ago

And they found, most of the young stars and star-forming regions lie on the surface of the bubble-like invisible structure and are mostly absent in the vicinity of the Solar System. The radius of the bubble is about 538 light-years and is continuing to expand at a rate of about 6.7km/s.

Physicist and astronomer João Alves from the University of Vienna (Austria), a member of the research team, said that ancient supernovas are the culprits behind this strange bubble of space.

A supernova is the final explosion of a star's life, usually a second death after it has "died" once and turned into a "zombie" form of a white dwarf. These "zombies" continue to explode at the end of their lives creating a spectacular phenomenon and releasing super energy, "piercing" a region of space.

It is also supernova explosions that compress matter around it, creating star-forming regions in the dense crust of gas and dust outside the explosion region.

The authors estimate that there were about 15 supernovas that made up this strange bubble of space. The history of the balloon begins 14.4 million years ago, when massive but short-lived stars were formed, then quickly died and exploded.

When the first supernova exploded, the Solar System carrying Earth was still very far from the bubble, but about 5 million years ago, the Sun's path through the galaxy brought it into the middle of the bubble.

This also suggests that the Earth-containing galaxy is likely filled with similar bubble structures.

The study has just been published in the scientific journal Nature.