Citizen scientists reveal a bubbly Milky Way

Mar 07, 2012
A team of volunteers from the general public has pored over observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and discovered more than 5,000 "bubbles" in the disk of our Milky Way galaxy. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Oxford University

(PhysOrg.com) -- A team of volunteers has pored over observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and discovered more than 5,000 "bubbles" in the disk of our Milky Way galaxy. Young, hot stars blow these bubbles into surrounding gas and dust, indicating areas of brand new star formation.

Upwards of 35,000 "" sifted through the Spitzer as part of the online Milky Way Project to find these telltale bubbles. The volunteers have turned up 10 times as many bubbles as previous surveys so far.

"These findings make us suspect that the Milky Way is a much more active star-forming galaxy than previously thought," said Eli Bressert, an doctoral student at the , based in Germany, and the University of Exeter, England, and co-author of a paper submitted to the .

"The Milky Way's disk is like champagne with bubbles all over the place," he said.

If astronomy had its own Academy Awards, then this part of the Milky Way would have been the "Favorite Nebula" pick for 2011. Competing against 12,263 other slices of the sky, this got more votes from the 35,000 volunteers searching for cosmic bubbles than any other location. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Wisconsin

struggle at identifying the cosmic bubbles. But human eyes and minds do an excellent job of noticing the wispy arcs of partially broken rings and the circles-within-circles of overlapping bubbles. The Milky Way Project taps into the "wisdom of crowds" by requiring that at least five users flag a potential bubble before its inclusion in the new catalog. Volunteers mark any candidate bubbles in the infrared Spitzer images with a sophisticated drawing tool before proceeding to scour another image.   

"The Milky Way Project is an attempt to take the vast and beautiful data from Spitzer and make extracting the information a fun, online, public endeavor," said Robert Simpson, a postdoctoral researcher in astronomy at Oxford University, England, principal investigator of the Milky Way Project and lead author of the paper.

The data come from the Spitzer Galactic Legacy Infrared Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire (GLIMPSE) and Multiband Imaging Photometer for Spitzer Galactic (MIPSGAL) surveys. These datasets cover a narrow, wide strip of the sky measuring 130 degrees wide and just two degrees tall. From a stargazer's perspective, a two-degree strip is about the width of your index finger held at arm's length, and your arms opened to the sky span about 130 degrees. The surveys peer through the Milky Way's disk and right into the galaxy's heart.

The bubbles tagged by the volunteers vary in size and shape, both with distance and due to local gas cloud variations. The results will help astronomers better identify across the galaxy. One topic under investigation is triggered star formation, in which the bubble-blowing birth of massive stars compresses nearby gas that then collapses to create further fresh stars.

"The Milky Way Project has shown that nearly a third of the bubbles are part of 'hierarchies,' where smaller bubbles are found on or near the rims of larger bubbles," said Matthew Povich, a National Science Foundation Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow at Penn State, University Park, and co-author of the paper. "This suggests new generations of star formation are being spawned by the expanding bubbles."

Variations in the distribution pattern of the bubbles intriguingly hint at structure in the Milky Way. For example, a rise in the number of bubbles around a gap at one end of the survey could correlate with a spiral arm. Perhaps the biggest surprise is a drop-off in the bubble census on either side of the galactic center. "We would expect star formation to be peaking in the galactic center because that's where most of the dense gas is," said Bressert. "This project is bringing us way more questions than answers."    

In addition, the Milky Way Project users have pinpointed many other phenomena, such as star clusters and dark nebulae, as well as gaseous "green knots" and "fuzzy red objects." Meanwhile, the work with the continues, with each drawing helping to refine and improve the catalog.

Explore further: Image: Galactic wheel of life shines in infrared

More information: For those interested in counting bubbles and contributing to the Milky Way Project, visit the following link: www.milkywayproject.org . To learn of other citizen science-based efforts, check out the Zooniverse: www.zooniverse.org/ .

Related Stories

Stars gather in 'downtown' Milky Way

Mar 21, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The region around the center of our Milky Way galaxy glows colorfully in this new version of an image taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

Researchers Discover New Star Clusters in Milky Way

Dec 12, 2005

Boston University researchers led a team of astronomers who recently discovered nearly 100 new star clusters in the Milky Way, each containing tens to hundreds of never before seen stars. Astronomy Professor ...

Before they were stars: New image shows space nursery

Jan 10, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- The stars we see today weren't always as serene as they appear, floating alone in the dark of night. Most stars, likely including our sun, grew up in cosmic turmoil — as illustrated in ...

The Tarantula glows with X-rays and infrared light

Nov 11, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- This spiderweb-like tangle of gas and dust is a star-forming region called 30 Doradus. It is one of the largest such regions located close to the Milky Way galaxy, and is found in the neighboring ...

Galaxy caught blowing bubbles

Sep 29, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Hubble's famous images of galaxies typically show elegant spirals or soft-edged ellipses. But these neat forms are only representative of large galaxies. Smaller galaxies like the dwarf irregular ...

Recommended for you

Image: Galactic wheel of life shines in infrared

Oct 24, 2014

It might look like a spoked wheel or even a "Chakram" weapon wielded by warriors like "Xena," from the fictional TV show, but this ringed galaxy is actually a vast place of stellar life. A newly released ...

New window on the early Universe

Oct 22, 2014

Scientists at the Universities of Bonn and Cardiff see good times approaching for astrophysicists after hatching a new observational strategy to distill detailed information from galaxies at the edge of ...

User comments : 25

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

foofighter
Mar 07, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
T2Nav
4.5 / 5 (8) Mar 07, 2012
I really can't tell if you are mirroring Kevin's thoughts on this, or mocking him by being as absurd as possible. In either case, you're doing a good job.
foofighter
3 / 5 (12) Mar 08, 2012
wow look at my rank lol - sarcasm is obviously a foreign language to peeps here
HannesAlfven
1 / 5 (7) Mar 08, 2012
The glaring problem for astrophysicists is that "bubbles" (it's a technical term) are actually one of the three top morphological characteristics of laboratory plasmas. This wouldn't be such a problem for them, actually, were it not for the fact that plasma "cells" exist as charge barriers. They are electromagnetic structures within the laboratory, alongside filaments and the bipolar z-pinch morphology. Those are the three most fundamental shapes we see in laboratory plasma physics experiments, and they require electrical currents, resistance, fields and double layers to occur. There is also, of course, the Peratt instability -- a stack of toruses -- but this is a dangerous, transient state for a plasma which few humans would ever survive seeing (if up close and personal). And it collapses into the squatter man -- which is recorded on rocks across the entire planet.

I think that the Milky Way project at least demonstrates that it really matters in science what questions we ask.
kaasinees
1 / 5 (2) Mar 08, 2012
SO maybe the universe is loopy after all and not stringy.
roboferret
4.4 / 5 (7) Mar 08, 2012
wow look at my rank lol - sarcasm is obviously a foreign language to peeps here


For sarcasm to be effective, it needs to be an obvious caricature of the subject being satirised. Unfortunately, physorgs' resident boggle-eyed woo merchants like KevinRTS and Yellowdart are beyond parody. I've seen far more outlandish claims from the likes of them, sadly. You got burned by Poe's Law!

http://en.wikiped...oe's_law
kevinrtrs
1 / 5 (8) Mar 08, 2012
Thanks for the faint praise of sarcasm.

IN the case of assumed or if you like inferred star formation, the underlying science needs to be sound first, and right now it is not. In this instance everything hinges on whether stars can actually form from a cloud of gas.
This has NOT been demonstrated - either theoretically or through actual observation. So while the observers are quite happy to point out that such bubbles or clouds MIGHT be places of star formation and actually use language in such a way as to pretend that it is, the sad fact is that it's all wishful thinking at this moment. AND they know it as shown below:
"We would expect star formation to be peaking in the galactic center because that's where most of the dense gas is," said Bressert. "This project is bringing us way more questions than answers."

aroc91
5 / 5 (7) Mar 08, 2012
Thanks for the faint praise of sarcasm.



You must not subscribe to common sense. Stars are made of hydrogen. The early universe was almost entirely hydrogen. There's no other logical conclusion besides clouds of hydrogen congealing due to gravity and igniting fusion. There's absolutely no other option. What do you suppose stars, made out of hydrogen, form from, besides the giant clouds of hydrogen that surround vast numbers of them, fairy dust?
roboferret
4.4 / 5 (7) Mar 08, 2012
Aroc91 beat me to it! Exactly the point I was about to make. Given these clouds have mass, and therefore gravity, Kevin what mechanism do you propose that PREVENTS them from collapsing? Levitation maybe?
What mechanism do propose PREVENTS fusion from igniting once the density is sufficient?
Is it a mother****ing coincidence that these stars have the same chemical makeup as the surrounding cloud? That they have a low helium content as we would PREDICT from a young, newly formed star?
Pressure2
1 / 5 (8) Mar 08, 2012
Kevin does have a point. After the BB there were no clumps of matter to start condensing the gases. If all that existed were gases, it is difficult to understand how they could condense to form the first stars. Gases naturally EXPAND to fill a vacuum. I guess it could be argued that magnetic fields started the condensation. Maybe that could happen but it would have to be very strong because when one condenses a gas the pressure increase along with the temperature. The increase in pressure and temperature would very likely destroy the magnetic field containing the gases. It just maybe a no win situation.

It is also doubtful that gravity would do a better job overcoming the increase in temperature and pressure to condense a gas. One would probably need solid matter create a gravity field strong enough to start the condensation of gases to form a star.
roboferret
4.4 / 5 (7) Mar 08, 2012
One would probably need solid matter create a gravity field strong enough to start the condensation of gases to form a star.


No. A ton of hydrogen has the same gravity as a ton of lead. The center of gravity is at the center of mass, and these clouds have a shitload of mass. Gravity CAN stop a gas expanding to fill a vacuum. - That's how we're still breathing - the sky doesn't have a roof keeping the air in (except in Kevin's favourite book).
Callippo
1 / 5 (6) Mar 08, 2012
Many these bubbles appear rather like vortex rings of dark matter, being observed from side.
are actually one of the three top morphological characteristics of laboratory plasmas
In AWT the dark matter clouds are full of neutrinos and maybe positrons - so they're of pronouncedly particle character in these artifacts, but this is the point, where their similarity with electrostatic plasma begins and ends. After then you're dealing rather with homologies instead of analogies. Such sparsely distributed charge cannot lead into significant plasma current effects.
Pressure2
1.2 / 5 (6) Mar 08, 2012
One would probably need solid matter create a gravity field strong enough to start the condensation of gases to form a star.


No. A ton of hydrogen has the same gravity as a ton of lead. The center of gravity is at the center of mass, and these clouds have a shitload of mass. Gravity CAN stop a gas expanding to fill a vacuum. - That's how we're still breathing - the sky doesn't have a roof keeping the air in (except in Kevin's favourite book).

You must be joking about breathing. The earth is SOLID matter, consentrated gravity, that is what keeps the air from escaping. And a gravity field may be at its strongest at the center of a mass but the force or weight caused by gravity is ZERO at the center of a mass. You would actually weigh nothing in the center of the earth because the force of gravity would be the same on all sides. The same would hold true in a gas field.
Pressure2
1 / 5 (7) Mar 08, 2012
Roboferret, you are missing another point counteracting the force of gravity in these gas clouds. Don't forget the universe is also expanding. You cannot compare a ton of hydrogen with a ton of lead when it come to the force of gravity. To have them both create an equal gravity field they would BOTH have to occupy an EQUAL volume of space.
El_Nexus
4.3 / 5 (6) Mar 08, 2012
Pressure2, you are completely wrong.

It doesn't matter that a gas cloud is not solid. The only things that play any role at all are how far you are from the center of mass, and how much mass there is interior to your current location. If you're completely outside the gas cloud then you feel the same gravitational force whether all the gas is crammed into a matchbox, or if it extends to just under your feet. If you happen to be inside the cloud then the only thing that matters is how much of the mass is beneath you- only if you're at the exact center do you feel no gravity. This is how gas clouds can collapse by their self-gravity, because not every gas atom is in the exact center.
Pressure2
1.1 / 5 (7) Mar 08, 2012
El Nexus, completely wrong? Maybe, then again maybe not. You are missing three points, the expansion of the universe, the gravity field's strength from the center of a ton of hydrogen is a LONG way from the center (inverse square rule) and the fact that the force of gravity is extremely WEAK!

It most certainly does matter that a gas cloud is not solid, show me ONE object in this universe that is composed completely of gas. Are there any that do not have a core of heavy metals?
El_Nexus
4.4 / 5 (7) Mar 08, 2012
El Nexus, completely wrong? Maybe, then again maybe not. You are missing three points,


OK, I'll go through them one by one.
the expansion of the universe,


The expansion of the universe is relevant only on huge scales like clusters and superclusters of galaxies. It's negligible on small scales like star-forming gas clouds.

the gravity field's strength from the center of a ton of hydrogen is a LONG way from the center (inverse square rule) and the fact that the force of gravity is extremely WEAK!


Again, it does not matter whether the mass is solid or a gas. If we suddenly evaporated all the rock and metal that make up the Earth and turn it into a gas, the Moon will still experience exactly the same gravitational pull from the gaseous Earth as it did from the solid, so long as the total amount of mass is the same.

show me ONE object in this universe that is composed completely of gas. Are there any that do not have a core of heavy metals?


Stars.
Pressure2
1 / 5 (10) Mar 08, 2012
And do you have any proof that any star is composed completely of gas? I do not think so!

It may not matter whether the mass is a solid or a gas over the long distances but it certainly does over short distances. And what you are ignoring is a nearby or distant solid mass would attract the gases from a gas cloud creating its own atmosphere. Are there any gas static gas clouds in our solar system? There is plenty of gas created by our sun but no gas clouds. Gas pressure may not be able to overcome the earth's gravity field but if the earth were composed completely of gas we would not even have an earth. The moon would be the earth without a moon.

The expansion of the universe is not irrelevant, it is in addition to the back pressure of the increasing temperature condensing gases create.

Pressure2
1 / 5 (7) Mar 08, 2012
I should have said stars composed of only "light gases" that would have been created after the BB.
roboferret
4.4 / 5 (7) Mar 09, 2012
Pressure2 -
This is simple Newtonian physics. Gas clouds are attracted towards their centre of mass. The density at the center doesn't matter to the gas at the edge. Density has no bearing on the strength of a gravitational pull, only the strength at the surface. If the sun turned into a black hole today, the orbit of the planets would be unchanged. This was all tied up in the 17th century.
These young type II stars, are almost completely gaseous. They are compositionally 99.99% hydrogen and helium. They do not have a solid metal core, neither does any active star, it's too hot and turbulent in there.
roboferret
4 / 5 (4) Mar 09, 2012
Pressure2
1 / 5 (1) Mar 09, 2012
Pressure2 -
This is simple Newtonian physics. Gas clouds are attracted towards their centre of mass. The density at the center doesn't matter to the gas at the edge. Density has no bearing on the strength of a gravitational pull, only the strength at the surface. If the sun turned into a black hole today, the orbit of the planets would be unchanged. This was all tied up in the 17th century.
These young type II stars, are almost completely gaseous. They are compositionally 99.99% hydrogen and helium. They do not have a solid metal core, neither does any active star, it's too hot and turbulent in there.

What you say about the orbits is true. You also say the gravitational force at the surface has no bearing on the density, that is just not true. The gravitational force on the surface of a very large star is not nearly as strong as it will be on the surface of the black hole left behind once this star explodes into supernova.
Pressure2
1 / 5 (2) Mar 09, 2012
Here is what's missing, the gravitational force on the surface of a large gas cloud is millions of times weaker than the gravitational force on surface of this same mass after it condenses into a star.

The strength of the gravitational force in a gas cloud is diffused AND drops off by the inverse square rule in every direction from EACH atom or molecule. Therefore the gravitational force on opposite sides from the center has little effect on the other side's surface pressure. As the density or the diameter of given mass decreases, so does the gravitation force (pressure) increase on its surface.

In other words, you would weigh more on the surface of a black hole than you would on the surface of a star of the same mass. And you would weigh little (next to nothing) on the surface of this same mass in the form of a gas cloud.
roboferret
4 / 5 (4) Mar 09, 2012
You also say the gravitational force at the surface has no bearing on the density, that is just not true.

I said nothing of the sort.
I said


Density has no bearing on the strength of a gravitational pull, only the strength at the surface


Please read the Wikipedia article I linked to regarding Jeans Mass. The threshold for gravitational collapse of a gas cloud is well established, with observations matching the predictions. If you're still in doubt, do the maths. The equations are right there. This isn't some tenuous hypothesis you're making spurious objections to, it's thermodynamics 101.
Pressure2
1 / 5 (1) Mar 09, 2012
I looked up your link and cannot say I disagree with it. Read carefully what it says about the possibility for gas clouds to condense. Does it sound anything like the universe shortly after the BB? The universe was hot and chaotic in that time period yet somehow it is claimed billions of stars and multitudes of galaxies had already condensed from these hot gases within the first billion years of time. Very unlikely.

Quote from link: "The equilibrium is stable if small perturbations are damped and unstable if they are amplified. In general, the cloud is unstable if it is either very massive at a given temperature or very cool at a given mass for gravity to overcome the gas pressure."
http://en.wikiped...ans_mass
Au-Pu
5 / 5 (3) Mar 10, 2012
kevinrtrs there is absolutely no evidence for the existence of a God nor is there any evidence that a Christ ever existed. We have many stories but not one shred of actual avidence. Even the many thousands of clay tablets used to convey messages between Rome and Judea contain no reference to a Christ or a King of the Jews. You and all of your believers have been conned massively. As a result religions of all sorts have enourmous wealth and unwelcomed power.
Who fuels modern terrorism? A handfull of mad Mullahs. Senile old men sending young gullible people out to kill themselves All in the name of fairy stories. Everything to do with religion of all types should be filed in Libraries under FICTION.
So Kevin please cease writing crap and get some proof. Bring that to us. Remember that bibles, korans, talmuds and all the other publications were written by men with vested interests and not one of them constitutes evidence. Even ex Fuller brush salesmen like Hubbard can start one