Twisted tale of our galaxy's ring

Jul 20, 2011
In a strange twist of science, astronomers using the Herschel Space Observatory have discovered that a suspected ring at the center of our galaxy is warped for reasons they cannot explain. Image credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech

(PhysOrg.com) -- New observations from the Herschel Space Observatory show a bizarre, twisted ring of dense gas at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Only a few portions of the ring, which stretches across more than 600 light-years, were known before. Herschel's view reveals the entire ring for the first time, and a strange kink that has astronomers scratching their heads.

"We have looked at this region at the center of the Milky Way many times before in the infrared," said Alberto Noriega-Crespo of NASA's Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "But when we looked at the high-resolution images using Herschel's sub-millimeter wavelengths, the presence of a ring is quite clear." Noriega-Crespo is co-author of a new paper on the ring published in a recent issue of .

The Herschel is a European Space Agency-led mission with important NASA contributions. It sees infrared and sub-millimeter light, which can readily penetrate through the dust hovering between the bustling center of our galaxy and us. Herschel's detectors are also suited to see the coldest stuff in our galaxy.

When astronomers turned the to look at the center of our galaxy, it captured unprecedented views of its inner ring -- a dense tube of mixed with dust, where are forming.

Astronomers were shocked by what they saw -- the ring, which is in the plane of our galaxy, looked more like an infinity symbol with two lobes pointing to the side. In fact, they later determined the ring was torqued in the middle, so it only appears to have two lobes. To picture the structure, imagine holding a stiff, elliptical band and twisting the ends in opposite directions, so that one side comes up a bit.

"This is what is so exciting about launching a new space telescope like Herschel," said Sergio Molinari of the Institute of in Rome, Italy, lead author of the new paper. "We have a new and exciting mystery on our hands, right at the center of our own galaxy."

Observations with the ground-based Nobeyama Radio Observatory in Japan complemented the Herschel results by determining the velocity of the denser gas in the ring. The radio results demonstrate that the ring is moving together as a unit, at the same speed relative to the rest of the galaxy.

The ring lies at the center of our Milky Way's bar -- a bar-shaped region of stars at the center of its spidery spiral arms. This bar is actually inside an even larger ring. Other galaxies have similar bars and rings. A classic example of a ring inside a bar is in the galaxy NGC 1097, imaged here by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The ring glows brightly in the center of the galaxy's large bar structure. It is not known if that ring has a kink or not.

The details of how bars and rings form in spiral galaxies are not well understood, but computer simulations demonstrate how gravitational interactions can produce the structures. Some theories hold that bars arise out of gravitational interactions between . For example, the bar at the center of our Milky Way might have been influenced by our largest neighbor galaxy, Andromeda.

The twist in the ring is not the only mystery to come out of the new observations. Astronomers say that the center of the torqued portion of the ring is not where the center of the galaxy is thought to be, but slightly offset. The center of our galaxy is considered to be around "Sagittarius A*," where a massive black hole lies. According to Noriega-Crespo, it's not clear why the center of the ring doesn't match up with the assumed center of our galaxy. "There's still so much about our galaxy to discover," he said.

Explore further: Image: Multicoloured view of supernova remnant

More information: An abstract and full PDF of the Astrophysical Journal Letters study is online at arxiv.org/abs/1105.5486

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User comments : 17

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kevinrtrs
1.3 / 5 (13) Jul 20, 2011
The details of how bars and rings form in spiral galaxies are not well understood,

This implies that there is SOME understanding, but is that true? What are the assumptions that went into the computer simulations? Would be nice to know.
That aside, why are the researchers shocked by what they saw [ ring-wise ]? What exactly were they expecting and how does this ring differ from their expectations?
What it does mean though is that once again the theory behind galaxy formation gets a rude awakening because such a twist and centre displacement of the inner ring cannot be accounted for inside current theory. Never mind how it got there in the first place.
LKD
not rated yet Jul 20, 2011
Um:
http://www.physor...ter.html

I believe we already read about this? Or is this a second ring?
jscroft
not rated yet Jul 20, 2011
Bolder's Ring, in miniature?
thales
4.6 / 5 (5) Jul 20, 2011
I spent some time doing research for you, Kev. Well I googled for about a minute. Here you go, lazy man!

http://arxiv.org/.../0206273
Donutz
5 / 5 (3) Jul 20, 2011
I spent some time doing research for you, Kev. Well I googled for about a minute. Here you go, lazy man!


Not that it'll do any good. I think kev has pretty well established by now that he holds facts in total contempt.
Peteri
5 / 5 (3) Jul 20, 2011
By his own actions, Kevenrts continues to demonstrate that, rather than spreading the work of his god, he is in fact working as an agent of the devil (within this same belief system). Why else would he continue to belittle the works of his own deity by presuming that the awe inspiring mechanisms of evolution is a myth and that the universe, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, is only 6000 years old?
Shelgeyr
1.8 / 5 (5) Jul 20, 2011
New observations from the Herschel Space Observatory show a bizarre, twisted ring of dense gas...

More accurately: "...twisted ring of dense plasma..."
...and a strange kink that has astronomers scratching their heads.

Methinks they should pick up the phone and call over to any plasma physics lab. You don't have to be an "EU/PC believer" to grasp the concept of "Birkeland currents". That part, at least, is mainstream.

In fact, here's a partial quote from the wikipedia page on them (http://en.wikiped..._current ):
"Birkeland currents are also one of a class of plasma phenomena called a z-pinch, so named because the azimuthal magnetic fields produced by the current pinches the current into a filamentary cable. This can also twist, producing a helical pinch that spirals like a twisted or braided rope..."

...computer simulations demonstrate how gravitational interactions...

I doubt gravity is the issue here.
HannesAlfven
2.4 / 5 (5) Jul 20, 2011
@Shelgeyr

It's a sad fact that twisting filaments still do not register amongst our professional astronomers as an observation which can be associated with plasmas conducting electrical currents.

If you ignore laboratory science in your attempts to infer the causes for your observations, it's not completely clear that you are practicing science. The decision by conventional astrophysicists and astronomers to ignore the large body of published papers in IEEE's Transactions on Plasma Science transforms this endeavor into something which we might be cautious to call science.

Laboratory plasmas twist and pinch in the laboratory, precisely as observed in the image, and the off-centered nature of the morphology is not a problem for plasma physics. So, does it matter that the gravitational framework has difficulty naturally explaining the observation? A scientific framework includes a set of assumptions, and our scientists should exhibit the courage to abandon them with ease.
jsa09
not rated yet Jul 21, 2011
I think this article is about kinky rings found in bars and that sounds a bit ... well kinky. That out of the way - and I am sure the author of this article was thinking it was all a bit kinky.

I will say good. Now that we have made the observation we only have to make up several potential solutions and how to test them.

All of which is great fun and if I had an enormous telescope like these guys I would be playing with it all day too.
ScienceLust
not rated yet Jul 21, 2011
"When astronomers turned the giant telescope to look at the center of our galaxy, it captured unprecedented views of its inner ring -- a dense tube of cold gas mixed with dust, where new stars are forming."

I'd think it would be hot dust and hot gas.Could there be some blue shift as you look at the center of the milky way?

thales
5 / 5 (1) Jul 21, 2011
I'd think it would be hot dust and hot gas.Could there be some blue shift as you look at the center of the milky way?


Not unless the center of the Milky Way is moving toward us at a significant % of the speed of light. In other words, no.
ScienceLust
not rated yet Jul 21, 2011
Thank you.How about some redshift? I'm thinking that the increased mass in the center means more gravity and ....
Well,why would it be cold with more stars is a smaller space?
yyz
5 / 5 (2) Jul 21, 2011
"Could there be some blue shift..?"

"How about some redshift?"

Actually the ring is observed to exhibit both blueshift and redshift relative to Earth, as expected of a warped, rotating ring slightly off-center from the nominal center Sagittarius A*. A rough velocity map is presented in Fig 4 of the paper: http://arxiv.org/...86v1.pdf
Callippo
not rated yet Jul 22, 2011
In my theory the flat shape of galaxy emerged from streams of particles, emanated from central black hole jets and falling toward galactic plane like giant double fountain. Now these jets are mostly down, because the excessive matter evaporated from central black hole, nevertheless there are still strong stream of neutrinos, which are gushing from poles of central collapsar and they're affecting the symmetry of the central area of galaxy.
Shelgeyr
1 / 5 (2) Jul 24, 2011
@HannesAlfven: Agreed with all your points!

So, does it matter that the gravitational framework has difficulty naturally explaining the observation?


Your mention of the gravitational framework reminded me of a site I had referenced on another thread quite some time ago, which I think went unanswered (just asked in general, not of anyone in specific), and before I repeat myself let me restate my "full disclosure" as well: I have no relationship with this site (other than having traded a couple of messages once upon a time), but I think they're really on to something, and as far as I can tell have done some exceptional work: http://dipole.se

I'd love your thoughts on the matter, especially seeing as how if they're at all right, it should IMHO effect the basic science behind this and all research touching on gravity. I personally see other possible non-gravitational ramifications as well, however I don't think any effort has been devoted to those other possibilities (yet).
nizzim
not rated yet Jul 24, 2011
Isn't all cold/hot gas in glow mode a plasma? I don't see how the fourth state of matter with its own properties is considered a gas.
Tuxford
1 / 5 (1) Jul 26, 2011
"When astronomers turned the giant telescope to look at the center of our galaxy, it captured unprecedented views of its inner ring -- a dense tube of cold gas mixed with dust, where new stars are forming."

I'd think it would be hot dust and hot gas. Could there be some blue shift as you look at the center of the milky way?



LaViolette predicts a very slight blue-shift within our galaxy, in the presence of higher mass density. The Pioneer anomaly is -in part- a measured result.

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