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Spiral Arm Of Milky Way Looms Closer Than Thought
New Scientist ^ | 12-8-2005 | Maggie McGee

Posted on 12/08/2005 3:16:16 PM PST by blam

Spiral arm of Milky Way looms closer than thought

19:00 08 December 2005
NewScientist.com news service
Maggie McKee

The Milky Way is made of four main arms curving around its centre – astronomers measured the distance from Earth to a star-forming region called W3OH inside the Perseus arm (Image: Y. Xu et al/Science)

One of the Milky Way's star-studded spiral arms lies twice as close to Earth as some previous estimates suggested. New research has produced the most accurate distance measurement ever made of the arm, which could help astronomers understand how our galaxy's spiral structure formed.

The Milky Way appears to be made up of four main arms that curve around its centre like a pinwheel. "However, our view from the interior makes it difficult to determine its spiral structure," writes a team led by Ye Xu of the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory in China, in Science.

Measuring the distance to the spiral arms can be particularly tricky. This is because astronomers can only measure the speed of an astronomical object in terms of how fast it is moving towards or away from the Earth. Comparing this speed to theoretical models, which assume the objects travel on circular paths around the centre of the galaxy, allows astronomers to deduce the object's distance from Earth.

Astronomers using this technique had previously estimated the distance to Perseus, the arm immediately beyond the Sun, at more than 13,000 light years. But other researchers arrived at half that distance using a method that compares the apparent brightness of massive, young stars with estimates of their intrinsic brightness.

Now Xu's team has used a third technique - 100 times more accurate than the other two - to conclude the Perseus arm is indeed relatively close, at just 6400 light years from Earth.

Hawaii to the Caribbean

They used a system of 10 radio dishes that boasts the sharpest vision of any telescope in existence. Called the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), the dishes - each spanning 25 metres - are scattered from Hawaii to the Caribbean Sea.

They focused on a star-forming region called W3OH inside the Perseus arm. Bright, young stars in the region heat methanol vapour in gas clouds around them, which in turn emits radio waves in what are called "masers".

The team tracked the masers at five intervals over the course of a year, determining their distance by "triangulating" their observed positions from different points along Earth's orbit.

"We used our changing vantage point to form one leg of a triangle," says team member Mark Reid, an astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US. "Then, measuring the change in angle of the source as the Earth orbits the Sun, we can calculate the source's distance by simple trigonometry."

They found that W3OH is not moving in a perfectly circular orbit but instead follows an elliptical path, as if drawn along the Perseus spiral arm. "It seems to be indicating that the spiral arms may have a higher density than previously guessed," Reid told New Scientist.

The team will now use the VLBA to measure the distances to a dozen star-forming regions spread across several of the Milky Way's spiral arms. "We hope to use such data to better understand how spiral arms form," says Reid.

Journal reference: Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.1120914)


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: arm; closer; looks; milky; spiral; than; thought; way
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1 posted on 12/08/2005 3:16:17 PM PST by blam
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To: RightWhale

2 posted on 12/08/2005 3:18:13 PM PST by blam
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To: blam

More details here: http://www.theforce.net/swtc/Pix/cg/btm/btm-map.jpg


3 posted on 12/08/2005 3:20:34 PM PST by BenLurkin (O beautiful for patriot dream - that sees beyond the years)
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To: blam

DUCK!


4 posted on 12/08/2005 3:21:31 PM PST by TN4Liberty (American... conservative... southern.... It doesn't get any better than this.)
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To: BenLurkin

Should I go about living my life as usual???


5 posted on 12/08/2005 3:21:37 PM PST by samadams2000 (Nothing fills the void of a passing hurricane better than government)
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And here: http://www.theforce.net/swtc/Pix/books/novels/vpmap2.jpg


6 posted on 12/08/2005 3:21:37 PM PST by BenLurkin (O beautiful for patriot dream - that sees beyond the years)
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To: samadams2000

No!


7 posted on 12/08/2005 3:21:53 PM PST by BenLurkin (O beautiful for patriot dream - that sees beyond the years)
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To: blam
I find this kind of story infinitely interesting. There is so much we are only scratching the surface about, even regarding such close in things as our own galaxy. I confess it's often a bit complicated for me.

Why don't the just send the Enterprise over there for a more accurate measurement?

8 posted on 12/08/2005 3:23:29 PM PST by stevem
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To: blam
(running in circles)

The Sky is Falling!

The Sky is Falling!

The Sky is Falling!

The Sky is Falling!

9 posted on 12/08/2005 3:23:35 PM PST by Young Werther
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To: blam

WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE...AGAIN!


10 posted on 12/08/2005 3:25:05 PM PST by Recovering Hermit
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To: blam
Since we're talking about space spirals . . .

Saturn Surprise: One Ring is Actually a Spiral

11 posted on 12/08/2005 3:26:29 PM PST by ZGuy
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To: blam
What's in the Galactic Center? Perhaps if we knew the nature of the center we'd also know why the galaxy is spiral.

I hope it's caramel, like the old Sky Bars I used to eat at the Movie house.

12 posted on 12/08/2005 3:26:49 PM PST by Zuben Elgenubi
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To: blam
I wanna go space truckin!! Wish there was a way other than watchin star trek... Even if we could get out there, the bummer is a hinderence of only obtaining speeds that of light. Which, according to these new findings, would take 6400 years to reach...

I wish these guys would get on the ball so we can get somewhere before I die...

13 posted on 12/08/2005 3:27:45 PM PST by sit-rep (If you acquire, hit it again to verify...)
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To: blam

I am shocked and apalled that the Bush administration caused this tracesty.

I demand reparations!


14 posted on 12/08/2005 3:29:07 PM PST by GaltMeister (“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”)
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To: Zuben Elgenubi
What's in the Galactic Center

Nuget

15 posted on 12/08/2005 3:29:09 PM PST by Dog
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To: blam

WE ARE DOOMED!


16 posted on 12/08/2005 3:29:33 PM PST by lexington minuteman 1775
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To: GaltMeister

Ooops - Travesty.

Maybe I better cancel my entry in the speeling contest tomorrow. :o)


17 posted on 12/08/2005 3:30:28 PM PST by GaltMeister (“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”)
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To: blam

Like the majority of spiral galaxies, the Milky Way is clearly a loosely wound barred spiral galaxy. Next, I'm sure we will be thrilled to learn that the sky is crayon blue.


18 posted on 12/08/2005 3:30:48 PM PST by FreeRep
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To: Dog
Nuget

Ted Nuget?!? Way cool!

19 posted on 12/08/2005 3:31:20 PM PST by GaltMeister (“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”)
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To: Zuben Elgenubi

20 posted on 12/08/2005 3:32:50 PM PST by Dog
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To: blam
BTT



21 posted on 12/08/2005 3:34:46 PM PST by Cacique (quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat ( Islamia Delenda Est ))
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To: Zuben Elgenubi

The Galactic Center consists of the finest baby frogs, dew-picked and flown from Iraq, cleansed in the finest quality spring water, lightly killed, and sealed in a succulent, Swiss, quintuple-smooth, treble-milk chocolate envelope, and lovingly frosted with glucose.


22 posted on 12/08/2005 3:40:05 PM PST by BraveMan
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To: Dog; KevinDavis
Necco's Sky Bar. Take your pick, one of four different creamy centers (no spinning black holes, by the way).

I didn't realize they still make 'em.

Kevin Davis, SpacePing

23 posted on 12/08/2005 3:41:16 PM PST by Zuben Elgenubi
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To: BraveMan

Mmmmmmmmmmm...


24 posted on 12/08/2005 3:41:53 PM PST by dinodino
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To: BenLurkin

Bad news, you're in the wrong galaxy. ;)


25 posted on 12/08/2005 3:43:41 PM PST by Heatseeker (Never underestimate the left's tendency to underestimate us.)
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To: blam

26 posted on 12/08/2005 3:43:57 PM PST by Gone_Postal (government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take it away)
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To: BraveMan

We used to call those treats from Iraq, 'candyasses'. I'll take a dozen if you please. I enjoy the 'lightly killed' version, too. LOL


27 posted on 12/08/2005 3:45:47 PM PST by Zuben Elgenubi
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To: blam

It's a good thing I don't live on a world in the Scutum Arm of the galaxy; I'd always be getting that name wrong. ;)


28 posted on 12/08/2005 3:45:52 PM PST by Heatseeker (Never underestimate the left's tendency to underestimate us.)
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To: blam

Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.


29 posted on 12/08/2005 3:48:55 PM PST by Redcitizen (My tagline can beat up your honor tagline)
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To: BraveMan
The Galactic Center consists of the finest baby frogs

But don't they even take the bones out?

30 posted on 12/08/2005 3:51:10 PM PST by GaltMeister (“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”)
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To: blam
"Spiral Arm Of Milky Way Looms Closer Than Thought"

Really? how far away is thought?

31 posted on 12/08/2005 3:55:30 PM PST by muir_redwoods (Free Sirhan Sirhan, after all, the bastard who killed Mary Jo Kopechne is walking around free)
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To: blam

Looking at our suns position in your pic it appears we live in the armpit of the galaxy.


32 posted on 12/08/2005 3:56:42 PM PST by saganite (The poster formerly known as Arkie 2)
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To: blam

I don't think we are totally in the boonies. There are other arm structures and we are in one of the minor ones if not living right downtown.


33 posted on 12/08/2005 4:03:00 PM PST by RightWhale (Not transferable -- Good only for this trip)
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To: saganite; blam; RightWhale

I for one am glad that God placed us in an out of the way place in the galaxy.

If there is life out there, they is less likely to find us before we are ready to go out and find them.


34 posted on 12/08/2005 4:20:40 PM PST by BenLurkin (O beautiful for patriot dream - that sees beyond the years)
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To: BenLurkin

From where we are, technological and naturally migratory, we could populate the entire galaxy in one million years. All 100 billion stars. We needn't worry about being found, we will do the finding.


35 posted on 12/08/2005 4:26:54 PM PST by RightWhale (Not transferable -- Good only for this trip)
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To: RightWhale

Works for me!


36 posted on 12/08/2005 4:28:59 PM PST by BenLurkin (O beautiful for patriot dream - that sees beyond the years)
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To: blam

This is proof of intelligent design!


37 posted on 12/08/2005 4:30:22 PM PST by Unknowing (Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.)
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To: blam

38 posted on 12/08/2005 4:31:28 PM PST by zeugma (Warning: Self-referential object does not reference itself.)
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To: blam

Drat, see, now, this would never happen if we were living on Uranus.


39 posted on 12/08/2005 4:32:29 PM PST by fieldmarshaldj (Cheney X -- Destroying the Liberal Democrat Traitors By Any Means Necessary -- Ya Dig ? Sho 'Nuff.)
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To: Zuben Elgenubi
What's in the Galactic Center? Perhaps if we knew the nature of the center we'd also know why the galaxy is spiral.

If you want a serious answer, the center of the galaxy is a giant black hole; its massive gravitational pull helps hold the galaxy together. But I'm not sure if it's nougat flavored.

40 posted on 12/08/2005 4:32:56 PM PST by Alter Kaker (Whatever tears one may shed, in the end one always blows one’s nose.-Heine)
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To: BenLurkin

Start with the moon. There is a mass of real estate right next door going to waste. Conquering the moon will necessitate development of everything we will need to move on out without further delay. The moon is only three days away by slow boat. America was 30 days away from Europe and that didn't stop anybody.


41 posted on 12/08/2005 4:34:49 PM PST by RightWhale (Not transferable -- Good only for this trip)
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To: blam
Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour,
That's orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it's reckoned,
A sun that is the source of all our power.
The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour,
Of the galaxy we call the 'Milky Way'.
Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars.
It's a hundred thousand light years side to side.
It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick,
But out by us, it's just three thousand light years wide.
We're thirty thousand light years from galactic central point.
We go 'round every two hundred million years,
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe.

The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
In all of the directions it can whizz
As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,
Twelve million miles a minute, and that's the fastest speed there is.
So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth,
And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space,
'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth.


42 posted on 12/08/2005 4:35:16 PM PST by theFIRMbss
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To: FreeRep
... the Milky Way is clearly a loosely wound barred spiral galaxy...
---
So you're saying the whole galaxy isn't wound too tight?
43 posted on 12/08/2005 4:37:04 PM PST by Cheburashka
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To: Alter Kaker
>If you want a serious answer, the center of the galaxy is a giant black hole; its massive gravitational pull helps hold the galaxy together. But I'm not sure if it's nougat flavored.

That's, like, so last week . . .
Plasma cosmology is
were the cool kids play.

Gravity gets swapped
for electromagnetics
in Alfvén's model.

Galactic centers
might just be clustered stars, not
singularities.

44 posted on 12/08/2005 4:43:20 PM PST by theFIRMbss
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To: BraveMan
The Galactic Center consists of the finest baby frogs, dew-picked and flown from Iraq, cleansed in the finest quality spring water, lightly killed, and sealed in a succulent, Swiss, quintuple-smooth, treble-milk chocolate envelope, and lovingly frosted with glucose.
---
Uh, thanks, you can have my share.
45 posted on 12/08/2005 4:45:51 PM PST by Cheburashka
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To: Cheburashka

In other words, the news isn't that the Milky War is a bared spiral galaxy, the news is that the Milky Way's bar is light-years longer than scientists thought, just like a swirl of caramel and chocolate. Seriously, sub-space is just getting bigger, so what's wrong in that spatial dimension?


46 posted on 12/08/2005 5:02:59 PM PST by FreeRep
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To: All

Does everyone understand what Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) is?


47 posted on 12/08/2005 5:09:11 PM PST by RadioAstronomer (Senior member of Darwin Central)
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To: RadioAstronomer
Does everyone understand what Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) is?

It has something to do with very large slide-rules from what I understand.
I know what VLBI is, but I'm sure not everyone does. :-)

48 posted on 12/08/2005 5:43:10 PM PST by zeugma (Warning: Self-referential object does not reference itself.)
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To: RadioAstronomer

VLBI is a technique used by astronomers to electronically link separated radio telescopes together, so they
work together, as single instrument with
high resolving power. It could help us see more patterns,
that would help map the spatial universe.


49 posted on 12/08/2005 5:48:58 PM PST by FreeRep
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To: RadioAstronomer

Sure.
VLBI is a geometric technique: it measures the time difference between the arrival at two Earth-based antennas of a radio wavefront emitted by a distant quasar. Using large numbers of time difference measurements from many quasars observed with a global network of antennas, VLBI determines the inertial reference frame defined by the quasars and simultaneously the precise positions of the antennas. Because the time difference measurements are precise to a few picoseconds, VLBI determines the relative positions of the antennas to a few millimeters and the quasar positions to fractions of a milliarcsecond. Since the antennas are fixed to the Earth, their locations track the instantaneous orientation of the Earth in the inertial reference frame. Relative changes in the antenna locations from a series of measurements indicate tectonic plate motion, regional deformation, and local uplift or subsidence.

http://lupus.gsfc.nasa.gov/brochure/bintro.html
You want that in English? With fries and a Coke?


50 posted on 12/08/2005 5:50:33 PM PST by HighlyOpinionated (In Memory of Crockett Nicolas, hit and run in the prime of his Cocker Spaniel life, 9/3/05.)
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