Galaxy Structure Emerging From New Discoveries

Outer Section Of Galaxy Arm Found, Leads To Wide-View Re-Evaluation Of Galaxy Plane

The often overlooked regions askew to the galactic plane are coming into new focus. Because the galaxy was thought to be relatively flat apart from the central bulge, very little observation of areas outside the plane has been conducted. However scientists are now uncovering a pronounced warp in the disk of the Galaxy, with the help of this new found section of the Scutum-Centaurus Arm. Looking forward this will lead to new approaches within galactic science and observation, as well as exciting new discoveries.

Our understanding of the Galaxy continues to improve with a recent discovery, 49,000 light-years from the center of our Galaxy, by Thomas Dame and Patrick Thaddeus of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

(Credit: R. Hurt SSC)

Data indicate that the galactic region they have observed and studied is the outer extension of the Scutum-Centaurus spiral arm, which extends from the bar-shaped star cluster at the center of the Galaxy. This section of the arm had never before been cataloged. Scrutiny of 21cm wavelength radio emissions allowed Dame to track the arm structure through the sky and he then was able to follow-up looking for evidence of molecular clouds on a CfA 1.2m radio telescope at Harvard.

“One can now trace the Scutum-Centaurus Arm nearly 360 degrees around the galactic system.” said Thaddeus.

The team was able to find and identify this new section of the Scutum-Centaurus formation despite that it warps out of the galactic plane into less-studied vectors.

A close symmetry is established as the Perseus arm extends from the opposite side of the galactic center. The new information bolsters the concept that our galaxy has only these 2 major arms.

(Credit: Axel Mellinger)