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A new study shows our planet is much closer to the supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center than previously estimated.
01 December, 2020
<p>If you think Earthly matters haven't been going well already, it also turns out that our planet is much closer to the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy than we imagined. New observation data allowed researchers to improve the modeling of the Milky Way Galaxy, showing Earth is moving <strong>7 km/s (~16,000 mph) faster</strong> and is <strong>2,000 light years closer</strong> to the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A*.</p><p><span style="background-color: initial;">The more precise information came from </span><span style="background-color: initial;">15 years worth of data collected by the Japanese radio astronomy project <a href="http://www.miz.nao.ac.jp/en/content/project/vera-project" target="_blank">VERA</a>, which is a collection of acronyms standing for VLBI Exploration of Radio Astrometry (with "VLBI" meaning Very Long Baseline Interferometry). The project started in 2000 and has the goal of mapping the Milky Way's three-dimensional velocity and spatial structures.</span></p>
<p>VERA employs <a href="https://www.eso.org/public/teles-instr/technology/interferometry/" target="_blank">interferometry</a> to pull together and combine data from radio telescopes all over the Japanese archipelago. This technique allows the project to get astounding resolution, as good as a telescope with a 2300 km diameter. The measurement is so accurate at this precise resolution of 10 micro-arcseconds, that it would be sufficiently sharp to pick out a U.S. penny if it was somehow left on the Moon's surface.</p><p><span></span>The VERA Astrometry Catalog and observations made recently by other researchers allowed the astronomers to put together a position and velocity map with a new center for the Galaxy. It's a point around which everything in the Galaxy revolves.<br></p>
<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0OTQwMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NDE1MDcxNn0.LYVf609wjGLX0OHUf_fQDO95Pm0d9ggXXz0xvDhh6LM/img.jpg?width=980" id="b4cf4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9d6fdf9c932c94ad65d18d10d1d55df4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="2048" data-height="2052" />
Credit: NAOJ<p><em>Arrows on this map show position and velocity data for the 224 objects utilized to model the Milky Way Galaxy. The solid black lines point to the positions of the spiral arms of the Galaxy. Colors reflect groups of objects that are part of the same arm, while the background is a simulation image.</em></p>
<p>The new map claims this center, along with the supermassive black hole it contains, is about <strong>25,800</strong> light-years away from Earth. Notably, this is closer than the distance of <strong>27,700</strong> light years established as the official value in 1985 by the International Astronomical Union.</p><p><span></span>The new map's velocity component also differentiated the velocity of the planet, showing that it's traveling at 227 km/s in its orbit around the Galactic Center. That's 7 km/s faster than the previously "official" speed of 220 km/s.<br></p><p>VERA next turns its attention to other objects, especially those close to the supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center. </p><p class=""><br></p>
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Cosmos Nature black hole European Southern Observatory Event Horizon Telescope Milky Way Sagittarius A Sheperd Doeleman U.S. National Science Foundation orbitermag.com
Northwestern University researchers discover the unexpected origins of half the atoms in our bodies.
29 July, 2017
<p class="p1">Not only are we made of stardust, but we may come from a galaxy far, far away. Astrophysicists discovered that up to half of the matter in our Milky Way galaxy comes from other, distant galaxies.</p> <p class="p1">The scientists used supercomputer simulations to make the surprising discovery that galaxies get matter through <strong>intergalactic transfer.</strong> Supernova explosions within one galaxy eject so much gas that it gets picked up by galactic winds that transport it to other galaxies. That way atoms get moved from one part of the cosmos to another.<span> </span></p> <blockquote> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">“Given how much of the matter out of which we formed may have come from other galaxies, we could consider ourselves <strong>space travelers or extragalactic immigrants,</strong>” said <a href="https://news.northwestern.edu/stories/2017/july/milky-way-origin-matter-galaxy/" target="_blank">Daniel Anglés-Alcázar,</a> a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern who led the study.<span> </span></span> </p> </blockquote> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">He added that it’s likely a large amount of the matter in the Milky Way came from other galaxies after it got “kicked out by a powerful wind, traveled across intergalactic space and eventually found its new home in the Milky Way.”</span></p> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">This would have taken several billion years to accomplish, even if galactic winds can move at several hundred kilometers per second.</span> </p> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">Check out this animation illustrating the intergalactic transfer of gas:</span></p> <p><span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="046d20cc7a734e6a9200de457af97576"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/6dUh_d7WJ-w?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span></p> <p class="p4"><span class="s2">Anglés-Alcázar developed advanced algorithms that mined the data generated by researchers from the <a href="http://fire.northwestern.edu/" target="_blank"><span class="s1">FIRE</span></a> (“Feedback in Realistic Environments”) project, led by Northwestern professor <a href="http://www.physics.northwestern.edu/people/faculty/core-faculty/claude-andre-faucher-giguere.html" target="_blank"><span class="s3">Claude-André Faucher-Giguère</span></a></span><span class="s1">. The FIRE team created numerical simulations that resulted in realistic 3-D models of galaxies, from the Big Bang to the present. The algorithm by Anglés-Alcázar was able to quantify how the matter was transferred between the galaxies.</span> </p> <blockquote> <p class="p7"><span class="s1">“This study transforms our understanding of how galaxies formed from the Big Bang,” <a href="https://news.northwestern.edu/stories/2017/july/milky-way-origin-matter-galaxy/" target="_blank"><span class="s4">explained Faucher-Giguère,</span></a> a co-author of the study. “What this new mode implies is that up to one-half of the atoms around us — including in the solar system, on Earth and in each one of us — comes not from our own galaxy but from other galaxies, up to one million light years away.”</span></p> </blockquote> <p class="p4">The team was able to track how gas from smaller galaxies ends up in the larger ones, like our Milky Way, where the gas forms stars. </p> <blockquote> <p class="p7"><span class="s1">“Our origins are much less local than we previously thought,” pointed out Faucher-Giguère. “This study gives us a sense of how things around us are connected to distant objects in the sky.”</span> </p> </blockquote> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">The findings provide unique insights into how galaxies grow. The scientists plan to test their results by collaborating with observational astronomers working on the Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observatories.</span></p> <p class="p9">Check out the study <span class="s1">“The Cosmic Baryon Cycle and Galaxy Mass Assembly in the FIRE Simulations” <a href="https://academic.oup.com/mnras/article-abstract/doi/10.1093/mnras/stx1517/3871367/The-Cosmic-Baryon-Cycle-and-Galaxy-Mass-Assembly?redirectedFrom=fulltext" target="_blank">here</a>. It is </span>published by the <span class="s4"><em>Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.</em></span></p>
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discovery science milky way intergalactic wind space cosmos physics astronomy Northwestern University galaxy technology supercomputer