Skip to comments.Study Describes Bar at Center of Milky Way
Posted on 08/16/2005 10:16:39 PM PDT by anymouse
After creating the most detailed analysis yet of what the Milky Way looks like, astronomers say a long bar of stars cuts on an angle through the center of the galaxy that includes the sun and planet Earth.
Some scientists have suspected the presence of the stellar bar, but the survey led by two Wisconsin astronomers shows the bar is far longer than previously believed, and at a specific angle.
The skinny bar is made up of old and red stars and is about 27,000 light years in length, about 7,000 light years longer than previously believed. The bar is at a 45 degree angle to the line between our Sun and the center of the galaxy and may put the Milky Way in a small class of galaxies with the unusual shape, researchers say.
"We're pretty certain the extent and orientation of this bar because we got more data than anybody else that has ever brought to bear on the problem by a long shot," said Ed Churchwell, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of astronomy who collaborated on the project.
The team of astronomers used NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to survey more than 30 million stars in the center of the Milky Way. The orbiting infrared telescope allowed the astronomers to see bright stars through clouds of interstellar dust to draw a vivid portrait of the center of the galaxy.
The new portrait will help astronomers understand how our galaxy looks from the outside and "how it forms together in the big picture," said lead study author Robert Benjamin, a UW-Whitewater professor of physics.
"The stronger the bar the more influence it has on everything going on in the galaxy," said Benjamin.
The study will appear in an upcoming edition of Astrophysical Journal Letters, a leading astronomy journal.
The study should put to rest the idea held by some astronomers that an ellipse is at the center of the galaxy's swirling arms, Churchwell said.
"We've largely been ignorant of this very major structure in our galaxy for all these years," he said.
The hardest work in the study was not observing the stars: the NASA orbiting telescope took about 400 hours of observations. Researchers spent five years preparing for the observation and almost one year making sense of all the data.
The telescope, launched two years ago, is the largest infrared telescope ever launched into space and is trailing the earth in an orbit around the sun. It uses infrared light to penetrate clouds of gas and dust that block astronomers' views from Earth.
The Milky Way is a large, spiral galaxy that contains the sun, solar system and billions of stars that make a luminous band as seen by the naked eye. Its precise size, shape and mass are still unknown.
Billions of galaxies make up the universe and are mostly spiral or elliptical in shape. Galaxies that have stellar bars cut through the center is rare, but not unheard of, scientists say.
Artists rendering released by the University of Wisconsin.
A closer look at this astronomical phenomena.
Creamy nougat and carmel
It's nougat wrapped in chocolate. Mmmm. My favorite.
Ah! And I thought it might be a fubar!
[Study Describes Bar at Center of Milky Way]
So an astronomer and a physicist walk into a bar. The astronomer says to the bartender......
Is it an annex of the Restraunt and the End of the Universe?
One Pangalatic Gargleblaster, STAT!!!
Next time we'll talk about the bartender.
Erm.. ment to write..
Bar at center of galaxy?
[Insert adult beverage joke here]
"The skinny bar is made up of old and red stars..."
Sounds as though it is located in Hollywood.
How late is it open? Next round's on me!
You don't suppose we'll find Norm Peterson and Cliff Klevan there, do you?
So, a bar is central to the whole Galaxy... when's the happy hour?
Arrrgh! Proofread, Ronin... proofread.
"My nipples. It's freezing out there."
when's Happy Hour.
Did I ever tell you the story of how I was thrown out of the Bar at the Center of the Universe. Well there was this blonde see, and a couple of us.......
"Study describes bar at center of the universe"
Would that be an alcohol bar or a dairy bar....?
"Bartender, is the galaxy spinning or have I just had too much to drink?"
As soon as I saw the thread title, I wondered how long before someone made that joke. And if you hadn't, I would have. :-)
"My God! It's full of stars,"
Sorry, it just had to be said!
If you look reeeeeaaaalllll close you can see three green men sitting at the bar.
Does the bar point towards Cobal?
Yes, but does it serve Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters?
Let me know when they find the restaurant at the end of the universe....:)
Hey, I live up here, when it got as cold as it did last year, for as long as it did last year, you're fat, and you're wearing an undersized, over starched shirt, that $hit hurts.
What a worthless thing to put on a man.
God's got a wicked good sense of humor, giving men nipples.
I'm 35 lbs lighter than I was last June, but might put it back on this winter commuting home by slogging through the snow drifts from warm bar to warm bar and drinking beer.
Sounds like the Milky Way is just a typical barred spiral galaxy, like M-109:
LOL! You get cold in Mass?
I saw the headline and was hoping for a big, black monolith.
It looks like you live in North Dakota.
I can't tell if you're making fun of me or not. Doesn't matter. Life is what you make of it.
I can't wait to visit my brother near Missoula Montana. Might decide to move there, as long as there are enough conservatives to hang out with. They only have 2 seasons there. Snow tires and Wild fires.
Right now I live a half block from the Old North Church.
Don't get me wrong, I'm only here because I love the 4 seasons (well, the ex brought me up here, but that's another story). Only the hack wussies go to Florida for winter. I do think we missed half of fall and half of spring this year however. Such is life.
I've been through worse winters up here, but since I moved to the North End last June, the tiny streets were a pain in the A$$ transportation-wise this past winter. No biggie.
What the heck was this thread about anyway, I got distracted by the picture of my hero, Norm.
I used to think 10 degrees above zero was cold, the weather here has recalibrated that.
As you said, life is what you make of it.
You may like Missoula, the country out that way is beautiful and the weather is more temperate than that here on the plains.
Expect lots of snow, but there are places out there where people strap on planks and go sliding down the hills on it. Great fun, from what I hear, if you are up for that. Definitely expect a change from the East Coast. I hope you enjoy it.
Bar at Center of Milky Way...
Isn't that in an alcove of The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe?
Zaphod, is that you?
If so, you need a double.
If not, I need a double.
Lovely photo! And, yes, three balls WOULD be a "Big Bang".
Just so you know, one of the best science teachers, best basketball coaches, and frankly, best all-around-adult role model, I ever had in high school was from North Dakota. He was a family man in a school that had way too many homo teachers.
Great sense of humor. It was an overseas DOD school and most of us kids didn't even know where North Dakota was.
He used to wear a college jacket that said N.Dakota and we would kid him about where "ndak-ko-ta" was.
He always laughed and took it with good humor.
Good man. Good representative of your state.
Actually, the ONLY person I've ever met from North Dakota, LOL.
Do they serve Miller Light???....
Funny how little of the movie was shot in ND, too, (most was done in Minnesota, but that's Hollywierd for you....)]
Or Wookies? Or Ferengi?