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Mystery Alignment of Planetary Nebulae Discovered 86

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the mass-of-flying-mantrid-arm-drone-thingies dept.
astroengine writes "Astronomers have discovered something weird in the Milky Way's galactic bulge — a population of planetary nebula are all mysteriously pointing in the same direction. They noticed the mysterious alignment in the long axes of bipolar planetary nebulae. 'This really is a surprising find and, if it holds true, a very important one,' said Bryan Rees of the University of Manchester, co-author of the paper (PDF) to appear in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 'Many of these ghostly butterflies appear to have their long axes aligned along the plane of our galaxy.' The team of astronomers, who used data from Hubble and the European Southern Observatory's New Technology Telescope (NTT) to survey 130 nebulae, posit that powerful magnetic fields may be behind the phenomenon."
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Mystery Alignment of Planetary Nebulae Discovered

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  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @12:22PM (#44758199) Homepage

    One moment, they're saying "Yeah, this is great, we're going to make terrestrial and gas giant and ice ball planets and dwarf planets and everything", but before you know it they're just sitting there sulking.

    • by CheshireDragon (1183095) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @12:24PM (#44758219) Homepage
      I too was thinking that the nebulae and myself have something in common.
    • Link to preprint (Score:4, Informative)

      by mdsolar (1045926) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @03:39PM (#44760413) Homepage Journal
      Here is the preprint: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2013arXiv1307.5711R [harvard.edu]

      We use high-resolution H {\alpha} images of 130 planetary nebulae (PNe) to investigate whether there is a preferred orientation for PNe within the Galactic Bulge. The orientations of the full sample have an uniform distribution. However, at a significance level of 0.01, there is evidence for a non-uniform distribution for those planetary nebulae with evident bipolar morphology. If we assume that the bipolar PNe have an unimodal distribution of the polar axis in Galactic coordinates, the mean Galactic position angle is consistent with 90{\deg}, i.e. along the Galactic plane, and the significance level is better than 0.001 (the equivalent of a 3.7{\sigma} significance level for a Gaussian distribution). The shapes of PNe are related to angular momentum of the original star or stellar system, where the long axis of the nebula measures the angular momentum vector. In old, low-mass stars, the angular momentum is largely in binary orbital motion. Consequently, the alignment of bipolar nebulae that we have found indicates that the orbital planes of the binary systems are oriented perpendicular to the Galactic plane. We propose that strong magnetic fields aligned along the Galactic plane acted during the original star formation process to slow the contraction of the star forming cloud in the direction perpendicular to the plane. This would have produced a propensity for wider binaries with higher angular momentum with orbital axes parallel to the Galactic plane. Our findings provide the first indication of a strong, organized magnetic field along the Galactic plane that impacted on the angular momentum vectors of the resulting stellar population.
    • by rubycodez (864176)

      Galaxy says, "You're just jealous of the high amount of pointing in my massive bulging package and a Milky Way of spooge that goes from horizon to horizon"

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why is this surprising?

    It makes sense that if all of the stars that formed the nebulae came from the same giant swirling cloud of gas, then the stars formed would tend to have angular momenta mostly aligned upon that same axis. When those stars explode later, the axis of the planetary nebula will be along this same axis.

    • Yes but they don't stop once they've formed. They keep on turning - asynchronously - or maybe not asynchronously.

    • by Jmc23 (2353706)
      The idea seems to be that once you're dying you start ejecting mass out of both your mouth and anus, in which case they would be aligned perpendicular to the plane of the galaxy.
      • by icebike (68054) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @01:59PM (#44759303)

        Well, actually we don't know a whole hell of a lot about the revolution of stars that far away, but it sound to me like said dual-orifice ejections tend to protrude out of the poles of the stars.

        That many of the poles of these stars tend to be aligned is not all that unexpected when the Galaxy itself is one huge gravitational system.

    • by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @12:56PM (#44758595)

      It makes sense that if all of the stars that formed the nebulae came from the same giant swirling cloud of gas, then the stars formed would tend to have angular momenta mostly aligned upon that same axis. When those stars explode later, the axis of the planetary nebula will be along this same axis.

      I was thinking the same thing, but now I'm not so sure. We have at least 8 decent points of data in our solar system for orbital bodies like stars orbiting the center of gravity. Among the 8 planets, 3 of them (Me, V, J) have an axial tilt of less than 4 degrees, 4 of them (E, Ma, S, N) have an axial tilt between 23 and 29 degrees, and one of them (U) is damn near sideways. In other words, our planets are all over the place. So it would seem to make some sense if the stars orbiting the galactic center were also all over the place on their axial tilt, so it wouldn't make sense that the bipolar nebulae are all oriented in the same direction. I wonder how many nebulae this includes though. If it is roughly half of them then that would seem to be in line with our solar system.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Axial tilt on planets is tought to be hugely influenced by colisions when they were forming. I'm far from being a scientist, but I don't think you can use planets as a baseline.

        • by icebike (68054)

          Or is it that Axial tilt tends to be more likely aligned perpendicular to the plane of the Galaxy due to small, but real gravitational influences on those stars as they orbit around the galaxy center?

          (Galaxy Rotation [universetoday.com] period is about 225 million earth years).

          Would whirling a fully gimbled gyroscope around your head on a string have any effect on the orientation of the gyroscope's axis?

          • Would whirling a fully gimbled gyroscope around your head on a string have any effect on the orientation of the gyroscope's axis?

            Not sure what you are getting at here, my head is not massive enough to create any kind of significant gravitational pull, nor does it have a magnetic field. My head would in no way affect the gyroscope, unless it were touching, or there was a wind blowing.

            Now my EGO, on the other hand, maybe, but there is no scientific data on the mass of an ego that I know of, so I am unable to give a proper answer on that one. Also, I left my fully gimbled gyroscope at home, I do have a half-gimbled one, but that is

            • by TheCarp (96830)

              > Not sure what you are getting at here, my head is not massive enough to create any kind of
              > significant gravitational pull, nor does it have a magnetic field. My head would in no way affect the
              > gyroscope, unless it were touching, or there was a wind blowing.

              Ahh, but to whirl a gyroscope about your head, you must be attached to it in some way. So to make it whirl like that, you would have to be giving it a constant (or as close as you can muster) inward force that is perpendicular to its current

        • Axial tilt on planets is tought to be hugely influenced by colisions when they were forming.

          And what, forming stars wouldn't go through similar processes? You realize that the major difference between a gas giant and a star is mass, right? It's not like they are completely different kinds of bodies, one of them just got so much mass that fusion started.

      • I was thinking the same thing, but now I'm not so sure. We have at least 8 decent points of data in our solar system for orbital bodies like stars orbiting the center of gravity. Among the 8 planets, 3 of them (Me, V, J) have an axial tilt of less than 4 degrees, 4 of them (E, Ma, S, N) have an axial tilt between 23 and 29 degrees, and one of them (U) is damn near sideways. In other words, our planets are all over the place. So it would seem to make some sense if the stars orbiting the galactic center were also all over the place on their axial tilt, so it wouldn't make sense that the bipolar nebulae are all oriented in the same direction. I wonder how many nebulae this includes though. If it is roughly half of them then that would seem to be in line with our solar system.

        In astronomy/astrophysics, you have to extrapolate the macro from what we know of the micro, but in this case, I'm not sure that your analogy holds water. The difference in mass between a star and a planet is orders of magnitude. This is like comparing the spin of a baseball to the movement of the tectonic plates. If you look at the solar system as a whole, even though the planets themselves have tilted spin, in general the planets are all on the same plane orbiting the sun.

      • Perhaps collisions of stars with other things big enough to have an effect (i.e. other stars) is much rarer than planets being knocked around by other planets (and planetoids) and even non-collision stars passing by.

        I wonder if gas balls will re-orient to surrounding rotations a lot more easily than rocky planets.

      • by khallow (566160)

        Among the 8 planets, 3 of them (Me, V, J) have an axial tilt of less than 4 degrees, 4 of them (E, Ma, S, N) have an axial tilt between 23 and 29 degrees, and one of them (U) is damn near sideways.

        In other words, considerable orientation with the plane of orbit. They aren't all over the place, especially with those three with near zero axial tilt.

    • by jbengt (874751)

      Why is this surprising?

      It makes sense that if all of the stars that formed the nebulae came from the same giant swirling cloud of gas, then the stars formed would tend to have angular momenta mostly aligned upon that same axis.

      It's surprising because the bipolar axis observed is at right angles to the axis of angular momentum. It even says as much in TFS:

      'Many of these ghostly butterflies appear to have their long axes aligned along the plane of our galaxy.'

    • by icebike (68054) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @01:50PM (#44759197)

      Why is this surprising?

      It makes sense that if all of the stars that formed the nebulae came from the same giant swirling cloud of gas, then the stars formed would tend to have angular momenta mostly aligned upon that same axis. When those stars explode later, the axis of the planetary nebula will be along this same axis.

      Well first, you have to read the SUMMARY where you will find

      a population of planetary nebula are all mysteriously pointing in the same direction.

      (I will point out that "a population" is very vague, and could in fact refer to a very small subset.).

      Then from TFA you see the actual quote:

      However, a new study by astronomers from the University of Manchester, UK, now shows surprising similarities between some of these nebulae: many of them line up in the sky in the same way

      So from SOME in the article, we get the implication of ALL (wrapped in weasel words) by the submitter, someone named "astroengine".
      An unfortunate level of HYPE that we've come to find all too often in Slashdot.

  • They noticed the mysterious alignment in the long axes of bipolar planetary nebulae.

    Perhaps they forgot to take their Lithium and Prozac?

  • View them from the right solar system and the nebula spell out WILL YOU MARRY ME SQUARDANTELLA?

    Amazing what a few dozen carefully arranged nova bombs can do.

    Yup, the marriage proposal that wiped out 17 promising young civilization.

    • View the entire universe background radiation from the POV of our planet and it has stranger properties [wikipedia.org]

    • by dgatwood (11270)

      View them from the right solar system and the nebula spell out WILL YOU MARRY ME SQUARDANTELLA?

      Close. It actually says, "We apologize for the inconvenience."

    • All because of the DeBleeznux corporation pushing nova bombing as the only socially acceptable way to propose back in 21000BC. It's been an ingrained social custom ever since.

  • For any galactic bulges.
  • by Jmc23 (2353706) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @12:37PM (#44758385) Journal
    Anyone?
  • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @12:40PM (#44758417) Homepage

    This is just a fashion statement among galaxies ... like slouchy pants or sideways hats.

    A couple of million years, and they'll all be wearing their bipolar planetary nebula crossways.

    This is essentially just like bell-bottom pants. :-P

  • by Anonymous Coward

    we just found the protector fleet.

  • Puppeteers (Score:4, Funny)

    by Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @12:45PM (#44758475)
    Obviously these are the Pierson's Puppeteers fleeing the explosion at the galactic center. It's not a rosette, but Niven may have been misinformed.
  • The direction the axis points has a lot more to do with comfort than magnetism.

    • Can you elaborate? I'm not even sure how galactic magnetic fields could align the star's rotational axes parallel to the galactic plane. Intuitively I would expect alignment perpendicular to the galactic plane, such that the galactic and stellar magnetic fields align. Perhaps the ancient galactic magnetic field was for some reason perpendicular to the rotation of the galaxy itself... it seems unlikely.. especially unlikely to last for a long time..
  • Electric Universe (Score:2, Insightful)

    by IMarvinTPA (104941)

    "The team of astronomers, who used data from Hubble and the European Southern Observatory's New Technology Telescope (NTT) to survey 130 nebulae, posit that powerful magnetic fields may be behind the phenomenon."

    Hey, you mean that mainstream science may be coming around to what http://www.thunderbolts.info/wp/ [thunderbolts.info] have been suggesting?

    Good luck!

    • by fredrated (639554)

      No.

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      No. Since contrary to the claims about mainstream science by such people they already know what electric and magnetic forces are at play and do in fact cause some observed features.

      I assure you though, this does not mean mainstream science is coming around to the sun being an electrified iron ball, or that the Earth used to orbit Saturn which was a brown dwarf at the time, or that the Earth's gravity was significantly lower and then the sudden increase in it (caused by changed in electric charge of course)

      • by TheCarp (96830)

        Please, I know the lies of a worldwide gangsrer computer god parroting puppet assasain when i see them. You are not going to fool anyone here with your frankenstien controls.

    • We gonna rock on through Electric Universe And then we'll take it higher!
    • by Mac_OSX-1 (632402)
      Astronomers explored electric fields in cosmic enviroments before the name 'plasma' was coined for an ionized gas.

      Claims that galaxies, or stars, are actually powered by giant electric currents have more problems than 'dark matter' because such currents emit microwaves. We don't detect these microwave streamers passing through stars or galaxies. For stars like the Sun, such currents create all kinds of severe problems for satellites and astronauts.

      For more details, see the "Death by Electric Universe" s

  • by arpad1 (458649) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @12:50PM (#44758525)

    ... is what they're pointing at.

    Notice how that's left out of the article. Coincidence? I think not!

  • The rotation of the galaxy imparts a rotational momentum onto objects in its gravitational field? Thus the nebula begin to rotate in the opposite direction. When the suns explode, the majority of the mass looks as if it travels along the axis of rotation. The expelled mass's path of minimal energy is towards the original body's axis of rotation. Is it this easy, or did I miss something?
    • Yes. You missed entropy. It all turns messy in the end.

    • by bughunter (10093)

      You also missed the part in TFA where they compared the planes of rotation of these disks and the galactic plane and discovered no correlation.

  • Yeah. Galaxy is exploding. Not news.
  • It's the direction the Precursors left the galaxy!
  • Of course if they were all being WASTED by some giant space-cannon from a single galactic source, that might be a reason they're all aligned similarly too...but none of the astronomers will talk about THAT, will they?

  • My army of globular clusters with longbows will slay thy army of planetary nebula with long axes before they even get in range to attack!!!!
  • by Framboise (521772) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @04:42PM (#44761013)

    The original press release points to a fully different topic paper.
    A better link is http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2013arXiv1307.5711R/ [harvard.edu]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    An explanation may be found in some theories found here http://www.iw.net/~a_plutonium

  • by devloop (983641) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @07:46PM (#44762255)
    I have worked out an elegant solution that can be collapsed to only 88 dimensions, where infinitesimally small unbound super strings made of pure dark energy are curled up in tiny unobservable sub-plank scale vibrating loops that create immeasurable gravity-like dark froth along the alignment axis.
  • Could it be they're all being stretched as they're attracted towards one black hole?

  • rainbow worlds or Groombridge?

    Y'all missed out on a great game, and I'm getting old.

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