Home > Astronomy, Astrophysics, Galaxies, General Astronomy > New Insights On How Spiral Galaxies Get Their Arms

New Insights On How Spiral Galaxies Get Their Arms


Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team

Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team

Spiral galaxies are some of the most beautiful and photogenic residents of the universe. Our own Milky Way is a spiral. Our solar system and Earth reside somewhere near one of its filamentous arms. And nearly 70 percent of the galaxies closest to the Milky Way are spirals.

But despite their common shape, how galaxies like ours get and maintain their characteristic arms has proved to be an enduring puzzle in astrophysics. How do the arms of spiral galaxies arise? Do they change or come and go over time?

The answers to these and other questions are now coming into focus as researchers capitalize on powerful new computer simulations to follow the motions of as many as 100 million “stellar particles” as gravity and other astrophysical forces sculpt them into familiar galactic shapes. A team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics reports simulations that seem to resolve long-standing questions about the origin and life history of spiral arms in disk galaxies.

“We show for the first time that stellar spiral arms are not transient features, as claimed for several decades,” says UW-Madison astrophysicist Elena D’Onghia, who led the new research along with Harvard colleagues Mark Vogelsberger and Lars Hernquist. Vogelsberger added, “The spiral arms are self-perpetuating, persistent, and surprisingly long lived.”

Full Story: http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2013/pr201310.html

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  1. April 2, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Reblogged this on Rebecca Stibrany and commented:
    This is awesome.

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