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SPACE: The Milky Way Is Warped

Milky Way - Pixabay

There’s trouble brewing at the edge of the Milky Way: New measurements suggest that a peculiar distortion of the galactic disk is hardly moving, contradicting earlier reports. As yet, nobody knows which finding will end up being correct. At stake are some key details in the structure and formation of spiral galaxies throughout the universe. Astronomers describe the Milky Way as a flat disk-shaped, double-armed spiral galaxy twirling and twinkling with stars. Yet since the mid-20th century, astronomers have known that this picture is partially wrong. Observations in the radio part of the electromagnetic spectrum first revealed that our galaxy’s … Read more

SPACE: Our Neighborhood of the Milky Way is One of the Safer Places to Live

Milky Way - Pixabay

Astronomers have searched the entire Milky Way to identify the safest places to live. It turns out, we’re in a pretty good spot. But if the past year has made you feel ready to relocate to another planet, you might want to look toward the center of the galaxy, according to the new research. The new findings were made by a group of Italian astronomers, who studied locations where powerful cosmic explosions may have killed off life. These explosions, such as supernovas and gamma-ray bursts, spew high-energy particles and radiation that can shred DNA and kill life. By this logic, … Read more

SPACE: Rogue Star Reaches Mind-Blowing Speeds

super fast star

As humankind’s ancestors were learning to walk upright, a star was launched out of the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy at a staggering 3.7 million mph (6 million km/h). Five million years after this dramatic ejection, a group of researchers, led by Sergey Koposov of Carnegie Mellon University’s McWilliams Center for Cosmology, has spotted the star, known as S5-HVS1, in the Crane-shaped constellation Grus. The star was spotted traveling relatively close to Earth (29,000 light-years away) at unprecedented, searing speeds — about 10 times faster than most stars in our galaxy. “The velocity of the discovered … Read more

NASA: The Best Way to Conquer the Galaxy

Milky Way expansion

A team of Chinese researchers has won a NASA competition to design the best-possible method for humans to colonize the galaxy. Their plan for the construction of an interstellar human civilization can be seen in the animation above. The competition was, at its core, about solving a complicated problem of geometry and route-making using limited resources. NASA asked participants to imagine that, in 10,000 years, human beings have decided all together to set out for the stars. But there’s a catch: “Although technologies and knowledge have dramatically progressed,” NASA wrote of this imagined future, “we are still subject to the … Read more

SPACE: Something’s Poking Holes in the Milky Way

Milky Way - Pixabay

There’s a “dark impactor” blasting holes in our galaxy. We can’t see it. It might not be made of normal matter. Our telescopes haven’t directly detected it. But it sure seems like it’s out there. “It’s a dense bullet of something,” said Ana Bonaca, a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who discovered evidence for the impactor. Bonaca’s evidence for the dark impactor, which she presented April 15 at the conference of the American Physical Society in Denver, is a series of holes in our galaxy’s longest stellar stream, GD-1. Stellar streams are lines of stars moving together across … Read more

SPACE: Astronomers Identify “Chimneys” in the Galactic Center

Milky Way Chimneys

The supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy is a bit like the hearth at the center of a cozy pub. It’s a bright, warm gathering place around which all the quotidian life of the Milky Way swirls — and, according to a new study published today (Mar. 20) in the journal Nature, it might even have a chimney or two. In a recent study of the X-ray emissions seething out of the Milky Way’s galactic center, researchers noticed two unusual structures that have never been described before. Twin columns of superhot, X-ray-emitting plasma appeared to be billowing … Read more

SPACE: A River of Stars

river of stars - Live Science

One billion years ago, a cluster of stars formed in our galaxy. Since then, that cluster has whipped four long circles around the edge of the Milky Way. In that time, the Milky Way’s gravity has stretched that cluster out from a blob into a long stellar stream. Right now, the stars are passing relatively close to Earth, just about 330 light-years away. And scientists say that river of stars could help determine the mass of the entire Milky Way.. Astronomers have seen these stars before, mixed in with lots of stars all around them. But until now, they didn’t … Read more

SPACE: Crossing the Milkyway

Milky Way

The disk of our home galaxy – the Milky Way – is bigger than we previously thought. A new study shows it would take 200,000 years for a spaceship traveling at the speed of light to go across the entire galaxy. Researchers made the find after analyzing the abundances of metals (heavy elements) in stars, also known as their metallicities. When looking beyond the previously assumed boundary of the Milky Way’s disk, scientists were surprised to see stars with compositions resembling those of disk stars. “We have shown that there is an appreciable fraction of stars with higher metallicity, characteristic … Read more

SPACE: It’s an Epic Clash of Galaxies

Andromeda Milky Way - pixabay

Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is on a collision course with its neighbor Andromeda. Although the collision will take place about 4 billion years from now, astronomers have long placed bets on which of the two star systems is more likely to survive the mega crash. Until recently, Andromeda, currently roughly 2.5 million light-years away from the Milky Way, was the clear favorite. But a new study suggests the outcome of the cosmic smashup might be closer to a tie. In a paper published online Jan. 10 in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, a team of … Read more

The Milky Way’s Photo Close-Up

Milky Way

If you’re wondering what sort of psychedelic visuals we’re looking at here, it is the Milky Way in amazing detail. The European Southern Observatory (ESO) made these pictures public announcing the completion of its huge galaxy survey, with the help of a really strong telescope in Chile. “The APEX telescope in Chile has mapped the full area of the Galactic Plane visible from the southern hemisphere for the first time at submillimeter wavelengths — between infrared light and radio waves — and in finer detail than recent space-based surveys,” the ESO’s release says. “The pioneering 12-meter APEX telescope allows astronomers … Read more