Astronomers have identified a new structure in the Milky Way: a long tendril of dust and gas that they are calling a "bone."
"This is the first time we've seen such a delicate piece of the galactic skeleton," says lead author Alyssa Goodman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). Goodman presented the discovery today in a press conference at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, Calif.
Other spiral galaxies also display internal bones or endoskeletons. Observations, especially at infrared wavelengths of light, have found long skinny features jutting between galaxies' spiral arms. These relatively straight structures are much less massive than the curving spiral arms.
Computer simulations of galaxy formation show webs of filaments within spiral disks. It is very likely that the newly discovered Milky Way feature is one of these "bone-like" filaments.
Goodman and her colleagues spotted the galactic bone while studying a dust cloud nicknamed "Nessie." The central part of the "Nessie" bone was discovered in Spitzer Space Telescope data in 2010 by James Jackson (Boston University), who named it after the Loch Ness Monster. Goodman's team noticed that Nessie appears at least twice, and possibly as much as eight times, longer than Jackson's original claim.
Radio emissions from molecular gas show that the feature is not a chance projection of material on the sky, but instead a real feature. Not only is "Nessie" in the galactic plane, but also it extends much longer than anyone anticipated. This slender bone of the Milky Way is more than 300 light-years long but only 1 or 2 light-years wide. It contains about 100,000 suns' worth of material, and now looks more like a cosmic snake.
"This bone is much more like a fibula - the long skinny bone in your leg - than it is like the tibia, or big thick leg bone," explains Goodman.
"It's possible that the 'Nessie' bone lies within a spiral arm, or that it is part of a web connecting bolder spiral features. Our hope is that we and other astronomers will find more of these features, and use them to map the skeleton of the Milky Way in 3-D," she adds.
For more information, visit http://milkywaybones.org.
Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists, organized into six research divisions, study the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe.
For more information, contact:
David A. Aguilar
Director of Public Affairs
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Public Affairs Specialist
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Further Reports about: Astrophysics > bone-like filaments > Center for Astrophysics > cosmic snake > galactic bone > Harvard-Smithsonian > Milky Way > Nessie bone > Observatory > spiral arms > spiral galaxy
More articles from Physics and Astronomy:
Researchers Solve Mystery of X-Ray Light From Black Holes
18.06.2013 | Johns Hopkins
Hubble Uncovers Evidence for Extrasolar Planet Under Construction
17.06.2013 | Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI)
- Biological fermentation process converts CO and CO2 into bioethanol and platform chemicals
- Process uses energy contained in steel plant off-gases
- Ten-year co-operation to develop and market integrated environmental solutions for the steel industry worldwide
Siemens Metals Technologies and LanzaTech have signed a ten-year co-operation agreement to develop and market integrated environmental solutions for the steel industry worldwide. The collaboration will utilize the ground-breaking fermentation technology developed by LanzaTech transforming carbon-rich off-gases generated by the steel industry into low carbon bioethanol and other platform chemicals. ...
Novel application of 3D printing could enable the development of miniaturized medical implants, compact electronics, tiny robots, and more
3D printing can now be used to print lithium-ion microbatteries the size of a grain of sand. The printed microbatteries could supply electricity to tiny devices in fields from medicine to communications, including many that have lingered on lab benches for lack of a battery small enough to fit the ...
... two engines aircraft project “Elektro E6”.
The countdown has been started for opening the gates again for the worldwide leading aviation and space event in Le Bourget, Paris from June 17th - 23rd, 2013.
EADCO & PC-Aero will present at the Paris Air Show in Hall H4 booth F-7 their new future aircraft and innovative project: ...
Siemens scientists have developed new kinds of ceramics in which they can embed transformers.
The new development allows power supply transformers to be reduced to one fifth of their current size so that the normally separate switched-mode power supply units of light-emitting diodes can be integrated into the module's heat sink.
The new technology was developed in cooperation with industrial and research partners who ...
Cheaper clean-energy technologies could be made possible thanks to a new discovery.
Led by Raymond Schaak, a professor of chemistry at Penn State University, research team members have found that an important chemical reaction that generates hydrogen from water is effectively triggered -- or catalyzed -- by a nanoparticle composed of nickel and phosphorus, two inexpensive elements that are abundant on Earth. ...
19.06.2013 | Life Sciences
19.06.2013 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
19.06.2013 | Studies and Analyses
14.06.2013 | Event News
13.06.2013 | Event News
10.06.2013 | Event News