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First "Bone" of the Milky Way identified by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
The galactic "bone" was identified while studying a dust cloud that in 2010 was nicknamed "Nessie" after the Loch Ness Monster. Nessie turns out to be at least twice, and perhaps as much as eight times, longer than originally claimed. Both the original 2010 "Nessie" and the extended structure are outlined and labeled here on a Spitzer infrared image. Photo: NASA/JPL/SSC.
WASHINGTON, DC.- Our Milky Way is a spiral galaxy – a pinwheel-shaped collection of stars, gas and dust. It has a central bar and two major spiral arms that wrap around its disk. Since we view the Milky Way from the inside, its exact structure is difficult to determine.

Astronomers have identified a new structure in the Milky Way: a long tendril of dust and gas that they are calling a “bone.”

“This is the first time we’ve seen such a delicate piece of the galactic skeleton,” said lead author Alyssa Goodman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Goodman presented the discovery today in a press conference at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, Calif.

Other spiral galaxies also display internal bones or endoskeletons. Observations, especially at infrared wavelengths of light, have found long skinny features jutting between galaxies’ spiral arms. These relatively straight structures are much less massive than the curving spiral arms.

Computer simulations of galaxy formation show webs of filaments within spiral disks. It is very likely that the newly discovered Milky Way feature is one of these “bone-like” filaments.

Goodman and her colleagues spotted the galactic bone while studying a dust cloud nicknamed “Nessie.” The central part of the “Nessie” bone was discovered in Spitzer Space Telescope data in 2010 by James Jackson (Boston University), who named it after the Loch Ness Monster. Goodman’s team noticed that Nessie appears at least twice, and possibly as much as eight times, longer than Jackson’s original claim.

Radio emissions from molecular gas show that the feature is not a chance projection of material on the sky, but instead a real feature. Not only is “Nessie” in the galactic plane, but also it extends much longer than anyone anticipated. This slender bone of the Milky Way is more than 300 light-years long but only 1 or 2 light-years wide. It contains about 100,000 suns’ worth of material, and now looks more like a cosmic snake.

“This bone is much more like a fibula – the long skinny bone in your leg – than it is like the tibia, or big thick leg bone,” said Goodman.

“It’s possible that the ‘Nessie’ bone lies within a spiral arm, or that it is part of a web connecting bolder spiral features. Our hope is that we and other astronomers will find more of these features, and use them to map the skeleton of the Milky Way in 3-D,” she adds.





Today's News

January 14, 2013

Berlin's Museum for Film and Television spotlights Martin Scorsese in exclusive show

From the Pre-Columbian world to Hollywood, treasures take the spotlight in Antiquities Saleroom's auction

A unique $2 Hall of Classics with inverted centre error stamp on cover achieves HK$4.8 million

Exhibition presents 70 works documenting Alex Katz's 60 year career as painter

Famed Tunisia mausoleum in Sidi Bou Said ravaged by fire thought to be from arson attack

First United States solo exhibition in ten years by Bernard Piffaretti opens at Cherry and Martin

First "Bone" of the Milky Way identified by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Wendell Castle presents an installation of stack-laminated pieces at Friedman Benda

Carpets and Couplets: An exhibition of new work by Dirk Stewen opens at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

The American International Fine Art Fair returns to Palm Beach this February 2013

Interventions by Laurent Grasso, Johan Grimonprez and Terence Koh on view at Sean Kelly Gallery

Exhibition of new work by the Canadian artist Hugh Scott-Douglas opens at Blum & Poe

Exhibition of new paintings by Julian Lethbridge opens at Paula Cooper Gallery

Sissi Farassat's first solo exhibition in New York on view at Edwynn Houk Gallery

Green Art Gallery presents "King Give Us Soldiers", a solo show of works by Hungarian painter Zsolt Bodoni

New Holocaust museum opened at gruesome WW2 site

Exhibition of recent works on paper by Andrea Way opens at Pierogi

Fabio Viale's first solo exhibition in New York opens at Sperone Westwater

St Anne's Medal sells for $59,000 at Kaminski Auctions New Year's Sale

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