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Space Education Science

Newly-Discovered Arm of Milky Way Gives Warped Structure 81

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the lemme-tell-you-about-warped dept.
eldavojohn writes "Researchers are now suggesting that a newly-discovered arm of the Milky Way Galaxy gives it a warped structure. Accumulated evidence leads them to claim that an 18-kpc-long arm exists on the other side of the galaxy and this arm traverses some 50 degrees across our sky as an extension of the Scutum-Centaurus Arm (which is one of the two major arms of our galaxy, the other being the Perseus Arm that we can see much more clearly). The researchers conclude that this extension of the Scutum-Centaurus Arm is partially obscured behind the middle of our galaxy because our galaxy is warped 'like the cap from a freshly-opened beer bottle.'"
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Newly-Discovered Arm of Milky Way Gives Warped Structure

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  • by dogmatixpsych (786818) on Monday May 16, 2011 @12:29PM (#36141224) Homepage Journal
    Who decided that these are arms? Could they not be legs? What about just appendages? Maybe what we call arms are really the Milky Way's hair. If that were the case it might just throw all of our understanding of cosmology out the proverbial window.
  • Pics! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ModernGeek (601932) on Monday May 16, 2011 @12:37PM (#36141300) Homepage
    Needs an artists rendition, the second most important thing in astronomy.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The original article also does not bother to define "kpc." Not being an astronomer, I guessed kiloparsec, but I wasn't sure.

    kpc = kiloparsec
    1 parsec = 3.26163626 light years according to google's internal unit converter, which, "if my calculations are correct" means 18 kiloparsecs = 58,709.45268 light years.

    • by Tsingi (870990)

      The original article also does not bother to define "kpc." Not being an astronomer, I guessed kiloparsec, but I wasn't sure.

      kpc = kiloparsec 1 parsec = 3.26163626 light years according to google's internal unit converter, which, "if my calculations are correct" means 18 kiloparsecs = 58,709.45268 light years.

      That was my guess, KiloParsecs, which I roughly equated to 3 light years, or 45,000 light years.

      I suppose it's really closer to 50,000. I'm sure I would have checked before gassing up for the trip.

    • I guessed the same thing, being a Star Wars fan. I thought "wow that's way longer than the Kessel run."

  • by Dyinobal (1427207) on Monday May 16, 2011 @12:41PM (#36141354)
    I bet the new arm has Geth.
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Monday May 16, 2011 @12:44PM (#36141380)
    This barred-spiral structure makes the Milky Way look a lot like NGC 1365.
    Here is what it might look like:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Phot-08a-99-hires.jpg [wikipedia.org]
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by HtR (240250)

      I don't remember the NGC 1365. Who was it's captain and which series and episode did it appear in?

  • by rsborg (111459) on Monday May 16, 2011 @01:15PM (#36141690) Homepage

    I have still not gotten a good explanation why galaxies aren't thought of as large accretion disks, since there is a large black hole (or more than one) at the center of almost every galaxy.

    The article here seems to indicate that what we're seeing might be the equivalent of a 3 dimensional accretion "disk" wherein the center "drains" along the poles.

    • by popoutman (189497) * on Monday May 16, 2011 @01:53PM (#36142120) Journal
      In an accretion disk the majority of matter is a small amount of interaction with other matter in the disk before it ends up close to or past the event horizon, and matter accretes from outside the disk to end up in the disk.
      In a galaxy, the vast majority of the matter in orbit is extremely unlikely to end up anywhere near the galaxy centre, and matter does not accrete in any significant volume (excluding galaxy mergers and collisions).
      Of course, both a genuine accretion disk and a galaxy are effects of matter in a gravity well....
      • I'm so used to hearing of "spiral" galaxies and other 2D shapes it's easy to overlook the 3rd dimension. A hurricane is a 2D spiral on a curved surface. Our solar system has a distinct plane. What I've read is that the solar system started as a large amorphous blob that through gravity condensed into a small area, and by conservation of angular momentum, changed whatever small random spin it began with into enough of a force to make the material spread back out, but this time along the equator of the spi

      • by rsborg (111459)

        In a galaxy, the vast majority of the matter in orbit is extremely unlikely to end up anywhere near the galaxy centre, and matter does not accrete in any significant volume (excluding galaxy mergers and collisions).

        Is this the case? Perhaps since we've only seen a few frames of the reel (we've only been gazing at the stars with telescopes for a few centuries while the galaxy and universe is billions of years old), we don't really know. IANA Physicist / Cosmologist, but I wouldn't mind a take from someone who has pondered the question and can bring facts to bear.

  • than the shape of our own galaxy. I wonder if there's a large space mirror somewhere we can catch a reflection of our galaxy.
    • by QilessQi (2044624)

      Assuming our universe is the 3-dimensional surface of a 4-sphere, then yes -- just wait long enough, and photons from our galaxy will come zinging back from every direction in the sky. Of course, our sun will have burned out long before then, so we'll probably cease to care...

      • Assuming our universe is the 3-dimensional surface of a 4-sphere, then yes -- just wait long enough, and photons from our galaxy will come zinging back from every direction in the sky.

        Given the accelerated expansion of the universe, they won't.

  • "And this, my liege, is how we know the Earth to be banana-shaped."
  • Arthur Dent, "I've always said there was something fundamentally wrong with the universe."
  • Does this alter where the galactic plane is, and the date at which the earth will pass through it (ie the end of the world on Dec 21 , 2012)

    If the Mayans didn't know about this their predictions may be wrong.

    • by bvimo (780026)

      The interference from the new discovered noodly appendage has moved the Earth end date (or rapture) to 21st May 2011.

      PS carry a towel with you, just in case

  • Now hand me a 'nuther beer. *hic*

    • Now hand me a 'nuther beer. *hic*

      Seriously though, I guess they outright ignored the twist off variety of bottle caps.

  • Or is it just the light bending around the massive galactic center that makes it look warped from our perspective?
    • by Plekto (1018050)

      It's a lot like a warped record. As the stars rotate past the Magellanic Clouds, the rest of the stars in the arm slowly shift and warp as they pass it. Then settle down and get flat again. Of course, this takes about 100,000 years or so, so we don't notice it happening.

      Well, it is good that we figure this out before we start to someday send ships all around the place. Sure, we can maybe design a warp drive some day, but without an accurate map, we're boned.

  • by laing (303349) on Monday May 16, 2011 @03:28PM (#36143148)
    From our vantage our galaxy may appear to be more distorted than it would appear to be from outside.

    Light travels rather slowly considering the scale of our local group of galaxies.

  • "The growing consensus is that the Milky Way has a central bar with two main arms, called the Perseus Arm, which passes with a few kiloparsecs of the Sun, and the Scutum-Centaurus Arm. (The other arms are now thought to be minor structures made up largely of gas.)"

    As a resident of the Orion Spur, I resent that statement.

  • I think I need to hit the cellar, grab some bottles and start experimenting.

  • havent had a drink in 6 days, killin me with the analogy!

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