Milky Way Galaxy Has Four Spiral Arms According to 12-year-study

Milky Way Galaxy Has Four Spiral Arms According to 12-year-study

An investigation which has lasted 12 years has proven the Milky Way galaxy has four spiral arms, not just two, has stated research lead James Urquhart. He is an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany. Urquhart and his group conducted the study of the Milky Way, and the stars within it trace out the galaxy’s four curved arms.

An examination into the specific construction of the Milky Way has been going on for as long as scientists have known the Earth is located within a galaxy. Such awareness has not been around as long as one might believe. It has only been about a century. Astronomers are unable to leave the Milky Way to get any other kind of perception. Any picture ever seen of it has been only an artist’s impression.

In Dr. Urquhart’s 12-year-study research project, astronomers worked on attempting to figure out the shape of the Milky Way by vigilant observation of all the stars inside it, and how far they are away from the Earth could cause problems. Enormous stars are an apparent choice because they appear to sparkle so radiantly.

From a viewing point, being on a planet that is circling one star among billions located in the galaxy, how is it possible to know the Milky Way’s galaxy’s actual shape? In the 1950’s, astrophysicists used radio telescopes that mapped the structure of the Milky Way. They concentrated on the enormous amount of gas clouds in which new stars are produced. Most of the astronomers of today were raised with this idea as being the normal idea.

Back in 2008, one of NASA’s space telescopes’ ended up with a different end result, mostly because it was able to look at different things. The telescope swept over the galaxy looking for infrared light which was released by stars. It discovered over 110 million stars, but only saw the indication of two spiral arms.

Urquhart explained that the telescopes findings were not wrong and his teams were right. He stated that each study was looking for different things. The telescope is only able to see cooler stars with lower mass, stars that are similar to the Sun. Those are more plentiful than the colossal stars that his own team was looking at.

For this new research study, astronomers decided to use radio telescopes, located in the United Stated, Australia and China, to watch over 1,650 colossal stars. From these observations, the distances of the stars were calculated. This helped reveal a distribution over four different arms instead of just two.

The scientists pointed out that such huge stars are much less common than the stars seen by the NASA telescope which had lower mass. This is because they live for only a short time, around 10 million years.

Due to having shorter lifespans, this means that massive stars are only discovered inside the arms where they first formed. This could explain the inconsistency in the number of galactic arms that various scientific teams have claimed to find.

So the bottom line is the new study of gigantic stars in the Milky Way suggests the galaxy has four spiral arms, not two.

By Kimberly Ruble

Sources:

NPR News

Earth Sky News

The Christian Science Monitor

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