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Archive for January 9, 2013

First “Bone” Of The Milky Way Identified

January 9, 2013 Leave a comment

Credit: NASA/JPL/SSC

Credit: NASA/JPL/SSC

Our Milky Way is a spiral galaxy – a pinwheel-shaped collection of stars, gas and dust. It has a central bar and two major spiral arms that wrap around its disk. Since we view the Milky Way from the inside, its exact structure is difficult to determine.

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.

Full Story: http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2013/pr201302.html

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Massive Outburst In Neighbor Galaxy Surprises Astronomers

January 9, 2013 Leave a comment

The surprising discovery of a massive outburst in a neighboring galaxy is giving astronomers a tantalizing look at what likely is a powerful belch by a gorging black hole at the galaxy’s center. The scientists were conducting a long-term study of molecules in galaxies, when one of the galaxies showed a dramatic change.

The scientists were using the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) 305-meter William E. Gordon Telescope at Arecibo for their study when they discovered the outburst in NGC 660, a spiral galaxy 44 million light-years distant in the constellation Pisces. The outburst was ten times brighter than the largest supernova, or exploding star. They reported their findings at the American Astronomical Society’s meeting in Long Beach, California.

After detecting the outburst, the team continued to observe NGC 660 with the Arecibo Telescope, and also sought to determine the cause of the outburst using an international network of telescopes to make a detailed image of the galaxy.

Full Story: http://www.nrao.edu/pr/2013/ngc660/

Wide Binary Stars Can Wreak Havoc In Planetary Systems

January 9, 2013 Leave a comment

An international team of astrophysicists has shown that planetary systems with very distant binary stars are particularly susceptible to violent disruptions, more so than if the systems had two stellar companions with tighter orbits around each other.

The team, led by Northwestern University’s Nathan Kaib, conducted 3,000 computer simulations to study the effects of binary stellar companions (some with tight orbits around each other and others with wide or distant orbits) on the formation and evolution of planetary systems.

The researchers found that wide binary stars in planetary systems can lead to dramatic events over time. In one hypothetical system, the researchers added a wide binary companion to the Earth’s solar system. This triggered at least one of four giant planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune) to be ejected in almost half of the simulations.

Full Story: http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2013/01/wide-binary-stars-can-wreak-havoc-in-planetary-systems.html