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)

Earth Alternatives

With the recent search for habitable planets based on observations by Kepler, and other instruments, we would like to pose the following question to the Galaxy Forum Community.

The Best Look Yet

This stunning image (Photo Release ESO1118) of the NGC 6744 Galaxy, from the European Southern Observatory‘s La Silla Observatory in Chile, represents the best look yet at what our own Milky Way Galaxy may look like.

Humans have not been able to reach far enough to image our Galaxy from the outside, although some projects have attempted to generate an image from within, using special optics and calculations. For example, two teams headed by Sean Carey of NASA’s Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology and Edward Churchwell of the University of Wisconsin, used 800,000 pictures from  the Spitzer Space Telescope to create an insightful view of the inner Milky Way Galaxy.

At the time, this image (Credit: JPL) was billed as the highest resolution infrared picture ever taken of our Galaxy.

GLIMPSE, Galactic Legacy Infrared Midplane Extraordinaire, was a more extensive survey conducted by the IRAC instrument on board Spitzer Space Telescope to generate an incredible high-resolution panoramic view of our Galaxy. The best way to explore this captivating picture is the online GLIMPSE Image Viewer, hosted by the Space Science Institute.

While the new image  from ESO is not actually of the Milky Way, astronomers indicate that it is the best representation currently available. Moreover, we are fortunate that the angles worked out so that we get an ‘over-head’ view.

Galaxy Hunter

Galaxy Hunter is a great online resource for 21st Century science educators and students. Data from Hubble Deep Field images provide the statistical and graphical backdrop for an extremely informative exploration of galaxy science. Critical analysis and methodological skills are covered in a practical and engaging way. The activity covers statistical and scientific issues related to Bias and Sample Size, while providing a significant amount of information about Galaxies and the Universe.

This resource targets students in Highschool, specifically grades 10-12, but could be adapted by the teachers for use at other levels.

Teaching tips are available here. These include lesson plans and resource overviews, as well as reference to National Standards.  (Credits: Frances Pittelli, Lynnette Roller, Denise Smith)

Moonbots 2011

Moonbots 2011 is a Google Lunar X PRIZE LEGO MINDSTORMS Challenge, and it correlates directly with the projects and goals of Galaxy Forums and the International Lunar Observatory Association.

“In the MoonBots 2.0 Challenge, students get to produce videos, gain computer programming skills, and learn the latest in technological advances at it relates to space exploration. It is important to inspire this generation with the Google Lunar X PRIZE and help kids understand that Moon exploration is still relevant and exciting,”

Chanda Gonzales, Google Lunar X PRIZE Education Manager.

This is the second annual Moonbots Challenge. The video below provides a brief explanation of the Challenge by Chanda Gonzales from the X PRIZE Foundation and Steven Canvin from LEGO MINDSTORMS.

21st Century Education – Galaxy Resources in Hawaii

This handout created by the team at Galaxy Forum and ILOA explores some of the many Galaxy focused educational resources available on the island of Hawaii.