Published on Mon Nov 01 2021

The "Maggie" filament: Physical properties of a giant atomic cloud

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The atomic phase of the interstellar medium plays a key role in the formation process of molecular clouds. Due to the line-of-sight confusion in the Galactic plane that is associated with its ubiquity, atomic hydrogen emission has been challenging to study. Employing the high-angular resolution data from the THOR survey, we identify one of the largest, coherent, mostly atomic HI filaments in the Milky Way at the line-of-sight velocities around -54 km/s. The giant atomic filament "Maggie", with a total length of 1.2 kpc, is not detected in most other tracers, and does not show signs of active star formation. At a kinematic distance of 17 kpc, Maggie is situated below (by 500 pc) but parallel to the Galactic HI disk and is trailing the predicted location of the Outer Arm by 5-10 km/s in longitude-velocity space. The centroid velocity exhibits a smooth gradient of less than 3 km/s /10 pc and a coherent structure to within 6 km/s. The line widths of 10 km/s along the spine of the filament are dominated by non-thermal effects. After correcting for optical depth effects, the mass of Maggie's dense spine is estimated to be . The mean number density of the filament is 4, which is best explained by the filament being a mix of cold and warm neutral gas. In contrast to molecular filaments, the turbulent Mach number and velocity structure function suggest that Maggie is driven by transonic to moderately supersonic velocities that are likely associated with the Galactic potential rather than being subject to the effects of self-gravity or stellar feedback. The column density PDF displays a log-normal shape around a mean of , thus reflecting the absence of dominating effects of gravitational contraction.