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Drinks are being served at the Milky Way Bar

Old 08-16-05, 12:17 PM
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Drinks are being served at the Milky Way Bar

Okay, so the thread title sucks, but at least it's not as boring as the original title:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8972222/

The bar at the center of the galaxy

Infrared survey maps central star structure at heart of Milky Way



NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC/Caltech)
An artist's rendering of the Milky Way and its central bar structure, with the sun's position noted.

By Robert Roy Britt

Updated: 11:26 a.m. ET Aug. 16, 2005

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.

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 resides. The survey found that the bar is longer than thought and sits at a sharp angle to the galaxy's main plane.

"This is the best evidence ever for this long central bar in our galaxy," said Ed Churchwell, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of astronomy.


The challenge

If you've ever been fortunate enough to see the Milky Way in the night sky, then you can appreciate the frustration astronomers face trying to probe the galaxy's center.

The milky swath of stars visible under a dark, rural, summertime sky represents a fraction of the millions upon millions of stars that crowd the center of the galaxy. We sit on the outskirts, looking in. Seeing through the glow to determine the galaxy's structure is hard.

Even more challenging is peering through all the dust between here there.

The survey was done with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, which records infrared light. All objects that emit any heat can be seen in infrared, and this wavelength penetrates dust, so the new survey revealed light from tens of millions of stars hidden to optical telescopes.

Bigger than expected

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. Churchwell's team also found that the bar is oriented at about a 45-degree angle relative to the main plane of the galaxy, in which the sun and the other spiral-arm stars orbit.

A light-year is the distance light travels in a year, about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion kilometers).

Other stars exist outside the galaxy's main plane. The Milky Way, like many galaxies, is surrounded by a sparsely populated spherical halo of stars. The main galactic disk is about 100,000 light-years wide, and the Sun sits about 26,000 light-years from the center.

Bars are fairly common in large spiral galaxies, but some do not have them. Astronomers had glimpsed ours and were not sure if it was in fact a bar or perhaps an ellipse.

The results will be published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

2005 Space.com. All rights reserved. More from Space.com.


And to think, we are one of millions or billions of galaxies out there, each will millions or billions of suns!

Chris
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Old 08-16-05, 12:21 PM
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Old 08-16-05, 12:22 PM
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One of my favorites movies!

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Old 08-16-05, 12:25 PM
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Here's a close-up of the Milky Way Bar, as seen from the Hubble: Link
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Old 08-16-05, 12:27 PM
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Keyzer?
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Old 08-16-05, 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by mrpayroll
Okay, so the thread title sucks, but at least it's not as boring as the original title
The thread title lured me in and the article chased me away.
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Old 08-16-05, 12:51 PM
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I thought the sun was in one of the outer arms. When did we move??
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Old 08-16-05, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Bronkster
I thought the sun was in one of the outer arms. When did we move??
Well look at this Link that Numanoid posted, it looks like we are splitting apart!

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