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New Measurements Of The Milky Way Galaxy

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New Measurements Of The Milky Way Galaxy

Research News

New Measurements Of The Milky Way Galaxy

New Measurements Of The Milky Way Galaxy

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Scientists have found that the Milky Way galaxy spins faster and has more mass than previously thought, with a size rivaling that of neighboring galaxy Andromeda. Astronomer Mark Reid of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics discusses the new measurements.

A Close-Up Of The Milky Way Reveals New Insights

This composite color infrared image of the center of our Milky Way galaxy reveals new stars. i

This composite color infrared image of the center of our Milky Way galaxy reveals a new population of massive stars. NASA/ESA/JPL/Q.D. Wang/S. Stolovy hide caption

toggle caption NASA/ESA/JPL/Q.D. Wang/S. Stolovy
This composite color infrared image of the center of our Milky Way galaxy reveals new stars.

This composite color infrared image of the center of our Milky Way galaxy reveals a new population of massive stars.

NASA/ESA/JPL/Q.D. Wang/S. Stolovy

A new high-resolution panorama shows the center of our Milky Way galaxy — and is the sharpest infrared picture that scientists have ever made of our galaxy's core, a mysterious region that surrounds a supermassive black hole.

The galaxy's core is normally hidden by dust and gas, but infrared light can penetrate the dust clouds. Scientists created the composite by combining images taken by infrared cameras on the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope.

One surprise in the image is the number of massive stars that are not confined to three well-known clusters of stars in the galactic center, says Daniel Wang of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, who presented the panorama at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, Calif. That means the stars either formed in isolation or were somehow ripped out of the clusters.

Also at the meeting, other researchers presented surprising new evidence that young stars can form close to the Milky Way's central black hole, even though scientists previously thought this region would be too violent to serve as a stellar nursery. Another study of the Milky Way has found that our galaxy is rotating about 100,000 mph faster than scientists previously thought, which means it must be 50 percent more massive than astronomers expected.

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