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Space Science

The Milky Way is Not a Spiral? 594

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the well-now-i-don't-believe-in-nothin' dept.
ETEQ writes "Space.com reports that new data from the Spitzer Space Telescope showing that the Milky Way is in fact a barred spiral! Looks like all our old astronomy textbooks will have to be thrown away..."
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The Milky Way is Not a Spiral?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @11:40AM (#13340216)
    Looks like all our old astronomy textbooks will have to be thrown away...
    Yes, this change is truly astronomical.
    • Re:Throw 'em Away (Score:4, Insightful)

      by syousef (465911) on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @04:08PM (#13342739) Journal
      Call me old fashioned but I believe that when you find evidence that invalidates or modifies a theory, you REVISE your text book instead of throwing it away. I don't really think we want to throw away the entire body of astronomical evidence over this one. Apart from that policy putting the human race back quite a bit, that'd upset me quite a bit given that I spent 2 1/2 years studying astronomy.

      Besides you don't want to set a precedent for your cowboy president to throw away all books on evolution because some small flaw is found in one part of the theory.
  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @11:41AM (#13340221) Homepage Journal
    Looks like all our old astronomy textbooks will have to be thrown away..."

    Just be careful of the words "throw away", "give away" and "books" in Henico County, VA

    "Mine, mine! Geroff! Mine!"

  • by VolciMaster (821873) on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @11:41AM (#13340225) Homepage
    a swirl of caramel and chocolate?
  • Not Exactly (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mr.Coffee (168480) * <Mr...Coffee@@@newyorkcity...com> on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @11:42AM (#13340235) Homepage
    The evidence they found tells us that this MAY be a barred spiral galaxy, it is not yet, theres just good strong evidence that could lead to a barred-sprial conclusion.
    • by frodo from middle ea (602941) on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @12:08PM (#13340511) Homepage
      you don't seem to know the terms "media spin", or "jumping to conclusions", or "may increase the risk by upto 50%" etc.
    • Re:Not Exactly (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Carnildo (712617) on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @12:09PM (#13340524) Homepage Journal
      This isn't exactly news, either. I recall seeing reports of this in magazines like Scientific American at least fifteen years ago.
      • Re:Not Exactly (Score:5, Interesting)

        by the_mighty_$ (726261) on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @01:44PM (#13341398)

        If the submitter had actually read the article....no, I guess that's too much to ask.

        Quote FTA "The bar is made of relatively old and red stars, the survey shows. It is about 27,000 light-years long, or roughly 7,000 light-years longer than previously thought." (emphasis mine)

        In other words, the news isn't that they just discovered the Milky War is a bared spiral galaxy, the news is that the Milky Way's bar is 7,000 light-years longer than scientists thought.

    • by Rei (128717) on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @12:26PM (#13340704) Homepage
      Cogito Eggo Sum, I think therefore I am a waffle

      No, if I'm not mistaken, it would be "I think I am a waffle." "Ergo", the word you replaced, is what means "therefore".

      Of course, "Eggo" doesn't sound like a nominative noun to a Latin speaker - it could be something like "Eggus" or whatnot, for which "Eggo" would be the ablative and dative singular. If that were the case, and "Eggus" meant "waffle", I believe it could be translated as "I think I am for the waffle", "I think I am to the waffle", "I think I am by means of the waffle", or several other things (I never really fully got the ablative).
      • by Thuktun (221615)
        Cogito Eggo Sum, I think therefore I am a waffle
        No, if I'm not mistaken, it would be "I think I am a waffle." "Ergo", the word you replaced, is what means "therefore".

        You forgot "sum". "I think waffles exist"?
        • Re:Not Exactly (Score:3, Informative)

          by Rei (128717)
          No. "Sum" is not "to be", but is "I am":

          Sum = I am
          Es = You (singular) are
          Est = He/she/it is
          Sumus = We are
          Estis = You (plural) are
          Sunt = They are.

          So you have:

          (I think) Eggo (I am)

          One person suggested that we could make up for the lack of prepositions by treating Eggo as a first conjugation verb for "to waffle" - then it would be "I think. I waffle. I am." Deep... :)

          Also a couple people caught my incorrect notion that there are no o-ending nominative forms. I forgot that there are several in third declens
  • by Intron (870560) on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @11:42AM (#13340241)
    "the bar is oriented at about a 45-degree angle relative to the main plane of the galaxy"

    I'm pretty sure that this means "Do not enter" according to international standards.
    • the bar is oriented at about a 45-degree angle Just how many drinks did the researchers have?
    • Re:45 Degree line? (Score:5, Informative)

      by teuben (226278) on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @12:05PM (#13340486) Homepage Journal
      "the bar is oriented at about a 45-degree angle relative to the main plane of the galaxy"

      typical science reporting. totally wrong. if that
      chap had bothered to READ and understand the original article or web site, he would have
      read
      "It also shows that the bar is oriented at about a 45-degree angle relative to a line joining the sun and the center of the galaxy."

      meaning the bar is in the galactic plane, not sticking out as the space.com article suggests

      http://www.news.wisc.edu/11405.html [wisc.edu] seems a far better reference.

      Just for the record, I still find it amusing that
      astronomers always seem to need to report
      in numbers astronomers don't even use. I know
      of no single person that uses the lightyear, in
      galactic astronomy we use the kilo-parsec (kpc).
      The pc and lj are pretty close to each other,
      3.26 between the two. So that 27,000 lightyear bar
      would be 8.2 kpc. It must be the total length, since the sun is about 8 kpc from the center of
      the milky way.

      • Re:45 Degree line? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by toad3k (882007)
        A parsec means nothing to me. A lightyear on the other hand means a lot. If it takes 8 minutes for light to reach earth from the sun, then I can kind of, sort of imagine how far away 27000 lightyears is.
    • by Glog (303500)
      I'm pretty sure that this means "Do not enter" according to international standards.

      That'd be intergalactic standards, sir.
  • Old Textbooks? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by UncleJam (786330) on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @11:42AM (#13340242)
    Looks like all our old astronomy textbooks will have to be thrown away...

    Which happens every year at the university level anyway, where a new 'edition' comes out every year with one or two pages slightly modified, but you have to buy the new one for $150 since the questions and homework study in the appendix are completely different. No, I'm not bitter that the fall semester is coming or anything.
    • Re:Old Textbooks? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ackthpt (218170) *
      Which happens every year at the university level anyway, where a new 'edition' comes out every year with one or two pages slightly modified, but you have to buy the new one for $150 since the questions and homework study in the appendix are completely different. No, I'm not bitter that the fall semester is coming or anything.

      In the event they are giving away old text books, please let me know. I'll happily stand in line, with my folding chair.

      I've shelled some really big zorkmids for astronomy books and

  • Flat Earth. (Score:5, Funny)

    by dividedsky319 (907852) on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @11:43AM (#13340250) Homepage
    Right, and the next thing you'll tell me is that the Earth isn't flat! And that the sun doesn't revolve around the earth. Blasphemers!
  • by ChristyB (908232)
    Is actually a candy bar. Here [overheardintheuk.com] is proof that the candy bar came before the galaxy. A company called Mars, Inc. makes them.
  • by rob_squared (821479) <rob AT rob-squared DOT com> on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @11:43AM (#13340254)
    Just wait until the collision happens: http://www.cita.utoronto.ca/~dubinski/tflops/ [utoronto.ca]
    • by Rakshasa Taisab (244699) on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @12:19PM (#13340643) Homepage
      There are (well reasoned) theories that the spirals are caused by earlier collisions. Thus this future collision will actually help produce new spirals. It is considered possible that the rotation of the galaxy will wind up the spirals so much they will disappear over time.

      Other interesting aspects of the spirals is that they do not actually contain much more mass, 5% more iirc, than the space between the spirals. There is a larger number of new stars being formed in the spirals, thus the bright but shortlived stars make them visible.

      These star births are caused by the compression of cold molecular clouds. Thus when another smaller galaxy collides it may cause shockwaves to travel through the galaxy compressing the molecular clouds.
      • Thus this future collision will actually help produce new spirals. It is considered possible that the rotation of the galaxy will wind up the spirals so much they will disappear over time.

        That's not my understanding. What I've read and seen, is that the larger Andromeda Galaxy will plow through the MilkyWay, tearing both apart, with some of the galactic arms being shorn off and dismemebered and tossed into intergalactic space, with the two larger destroyed galaxies colliding again and then collapsing into

  • by The I Shing (700142) * on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @11:44AM (#13340257) Journal
    Well, dammit, I guess I'm going to have to rethink my entire Star Hero Terran Empires [herogames.com] roleplaying campaign.
  • by jettoki (894493)
    This is actually not very surprising. As the article points out, bars are common spiral galaxies. It would have been more surprising to find conclusive evidence against a bar.
  • by TildeMan (472701) <gsivek@mi t . edu> on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @11:45AM (#13340269) Homepage
    My high school chemistry textbook said that the atmosphere was 80% nitrogen and 23% oxygen, and that didn't need to be thrown away. So we'll just blame this shape-of-the-galaxy thing on sig figs.
  • by convex_mirror (905839) on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @11:45AM (#13340273)
    I always knew that the milky way was a bar, and that it is filled with nougat.

  • by lobsterGun (415085) on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @11:46AM (#13340284)
    ...looks like I'm going to have to get new business cards.
  • No way (Score:5, Funny)

    by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @11:47AM (#13340290) Homepage Journal
    The fact the milky way is a normal spiral is a fundamental tenet of Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and this new evidenc is just a theory. I demand that people continue to teach my older (wrong) alternative theory.
  • by LocutusMIT (10726) on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @11:47AM (#13340298) Homepage
    ... the Milky Way is in fact a barred spiral!

    Mmmmmm... Milky Way Bar...
  • Old news (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @11:49AM (#13340325)
    This is actually more of a confirmation of prior work. See the following, for example, which dates back two years.

    Title: The Galactic Bar
    Authors: Merrifield, M. R.
    Journal: Milky Way Surveys: The Structure and Evolution of our Galaxy, Proceedings of ASP Conference #317. The 5th Boston University Astrophysics Conference held 15-17 June, 2003 at Boston University, Boston, MA, USA. Edited by Dan Clemens, Ronak Shah, and Teresa Brainerd. San Francisco: Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 2004., p.289

    Abstract:
    Like the majority of spiral galaxies, the Milky Way contains a central non-axisymmetric bar component. Our position in the Galactic plane renders it rather hard to see, but also allows us to make measurements of the bar that are completely unobtainable for any other system. This paper reviews the evidence for a bar that can be gleaned from the many extensive surveys of both gas and stars in the Milky Way. We introduce some simplified models to show how the basic properties of the bar can be inferred in a reasonably robust manner despite our unfavorable location, and how the complex geometry can be used to our advantage to obtain a unique three-dimensional view of the bar. The emerging picture of the Galactic bar is also placed in the broader context of current attempts to understand how such structures form and evolve in spiral galaxies.
  • Known for decades (Score:5, Informative)

    by Xerxes314 (585536) <clebsch_gordan@yahoo.com> on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @11:49AM (#13340328)
    The blurb is very poorly informed. The bar structure of the Milky Way has been known for decades. Not only does a cursory search of the Harvard Astrophysics database yield a 1992 paper on the subject, but the Wikipedia article on the Milky Way clearly describes its structure as SBbc (loosely wound barred spiral).

    Next week, I'm sure we'll all be thrilled to learn that the sky is blue. Rewrite the textbooks!

    • A recent article [msn.com] points out that the sky is actually a range of wavelengths which we perceive as "blue" because of color mixing in the eye. So it's not just a special property of that frequency of blue, but rather an illusion that nets out to that blue.
      • So, in other words, its blue. I don't think anyone actually believes that the sky is solid and painted blue these days :)
    • Re:Known for decades (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ferat (971)
      The new research shows it to be about 7000 light years longer than previously thought, and at a 45 degree angle. That is what was new, not that the bar was there in the first place. I agree, poorly written blurb.

      Saw it on the tribune earlier:

      http://www.startribune.com/stories/1556/5564676.ht ml [startribune.com]
    • Well, it's been known for decades that the sky isn't blue, it's Carolina blue.
    • Heh, it says that right in the beginning of the SPACE.com article.

      A new infrared survey that claims to be the most comprehensive structural analysis of our galaxy confirms previous evidence for a central bar of stars.

      You can't confirm somehing if you didn't already suspect it, right? It is just a small issue though. What actually is a new discovery (I think. IANAA) is this

      The bar is embedded in the center of the galaxy's spiral arms and cuts across the heart of it all where a supermassive black hole resi

  • by CrazyTalk (662055) on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @11:51AM (#13340349)
    Don't you guys know anything about object oriented programming? A barred spiral inherits from spiral:

    e.g.

    public class CBarredSpiral : CSpiral

    • You think you are being smart now, but you overlook another possiblity.

      Non-bar spiral galaxies are just a special case of the barred spiral with a bar length of less than epsilon.
  • As the article said, "May." We need to send someone outside the galaxy, so they can look and make a positive determination.
  • rest (Score:2, Funny)

    by Shotgun (30919)
    Well, I'm certainly glad they cleared that one up. I can't tell you the sleepless nights I've spent wondering if I existed in a spiral vs a barred spiral galaxy. With answers to such fundamental questions like these pouring forth, I'm sure our friends in Washington will continue to confiscate my property to fund their efforts.

  • Hold on... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wanerious (712877) on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @11:57AM (#13340420) Homepage
    The "throw away the textbooks" comment is a little snarky. The text I currently use, as well as most of the others in use, describe the Milky Way as *possibly* having some kind of barred shape, as there has been evidence along these lines for years. Books evolve. 15-year old books don't have much to difinitively say on the cosmological constant, either, though they may be perfectly good texts on all other phenomena.
  • by ClippyHater (638515) on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @11:59AM (#13340437) Journal
    Everyone's said my directions suck. I kept telling them, "It's a huge spiral, you can't miss it!", and they keep calling me a useless monkey-boy who couldn't navigate my way into a black hole.
  • How Come... (Score:4, Funny)

    by eno2001 (527078) on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @12:06PM (#13340498) Homepage Journal
    ...there are no pictures of the Milky Way from space? Whenever I've Googled for pictures of the Milky Way, I either get artist renderings or these stupid pictures of a strip of the night sky. Since we've supposedly went into space a lot of time, we should have good photos of the Milky Way from space. Even moreso since the Voyager spacecraft left the universe a year or so ago. When the voyager left our universe, it should have had a great shot of the entire galaxy and all it's planets. I mean, the universe is what... like ten million miles wide or something, right?
  • Looks like all our old astronomy textbooks will have to be thrown away..."

    Along with the old physics, paleonthology, biology, etc. are thrown away everytime a theory's proven wrong.

    Anyway, astronomy textbooks should be dumped regularly. Just look at the most recent findings in astronomy: Supermassive black holes, Planet X, black holes hidden behind clouds of dust... I wonder what new astronomical discovery appears next month.
  • For the psicohistorians. No clues about where the Second Foundation is, based on the form of the galaxy.
  • or even if you don't. They've been saying for a while that the data points towars a barred spiral and the only thing I'm seeing that is new is the 45 degree bit which isn't unusual in barred spirals. There's a good number with folded bar layout already in the catalogs. We are pretty sure that the galaxy has eaten other smaller dwarfs and possibly one or more larger ones earlier on, but the upcoming Andromeda collision is going to be the big one. Too bad we'll be extinct through evolution or as one large Dar
  • I watched the discovery channel on these suckers but I had taken a bunch of downers washed down with some bourbon so I don't really remember everything. My question is with a Milky Way-like situation, stuff floats toward the barycenter [wikipedia.org], and that's where cosmic crud clumps up, over time building up more and more mass (and therefore gravity) I'm assuming at an exponential rate. At what point do you call this [theoretically?] a black hole? When it has enough force to retain light? And what's the difference whe
  • by wcrowe (94389) on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @12:25PM (#13340702)
    I always knew it was a bar [milkywaybar.com].
  • by mbrother (739193) * <mbrother@u w y o . e du> on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @12:42PM (#13340856) Homepage
    I teach astronomy. We've known for quite a few years that the Milky Way is a barred spiral (observations of carbon stars being the best most recent proof prior to Spitzer) and known for decades before that it might be a barred spiral. And a barred spiral IS a spiral galaxy. Cool result in any event.
  • by Ken Broadfoot (3675) on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @03:21PM (#13342296) Homepage Journal
    Another bar... so much for the neighborhood.

    --ken

"Out of register space (ugh)" -- vi

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