Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Spitzer Exposes Our Galaxy's Deepest Secrets

Date:
December 22, 2005
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
Astronomers have at last found inner light! But they didn't find it through the typical Earthly methods of meditation, exercise and therapy. Instead, the light was discovered inside our Milky Way galaxy after hours of deep self-reflection with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

A panoramic, infrared image from Spitzer of the Milky Way's galactic plane. The red clouds indicate the presence of large organic molecules (mixed with the dust), which have been illuminated by nearby star formation. The patches of black are dense obscuring dust clouds impenetrable by even Spitzer's super-sensitive infrared eyes. Bright arcs of white throughout the image are massive stellar incubators.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/E. Churchwell (Univ. Wisconsin)

Astronomers have at last found inner light! But they didn't find it through the typical Earthly methods of meditation, exercise and therapy. Instead, the light was discovered inside our Milky Way galaxy after hours of deep self-reflection with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

The astronomers, who are members of the Galactic Legacy Infrared Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire team, used Spitzer's heat-seeking infrared eyes to gaze at the dust-drenched plane of our galaxy. When they did this, the galaxy's obscuring clouds of gas and dust became transparent, revealing approximately 100 new star clusters, each containing tens to hundreds of stars.

According to lead investigator Emily Mercer, a graduate student at Boston University, Mass., the new clusters will tell astronomers a great deal about the structure of the Milky Way and star formation within the galaxy.

"These little guys were quite hard to find," said Mercer. "The discovery required sophisticated computer sifting of Glimpse data and careful inspection of the Spitzer images."

In the past, our galaxy wasn't so quick to give up its stellar secrets. Because we sit inside its flat, spiral disk, most of the galaxy appears as a thick, blurry band of light that streaks across the sky. Many of the stars in this galactic plane cannot be detected with visible-light or ultraviolet telescopes. That's because the cool clouds of dust and gas that hover around the galaxy's center and make up galactic spiral arms block their starlight from our view.

Two-thirds of the new star clusters were discovered through a computer method developed by Mercer and her advisor, Dr. Dan Clemens, also of Boston University. They used an algorithm, or mathematical procedure, to automatically sift through the Glimpse data for clusters. The rest were found using the traditional method of visually scrutinizing images for star clusters.

Mercer also found that there are nearly twice as many star clusters in the southern portion of the galactic plane, visible from Earth's southern hemisphere, as in the northern galactic plane. She suspects that this observation may help astronomers map the location of the Milky Way's spiral arms.

"Emily has done a great job," says Clemens. "Her computer method for finding clusters has proved to be the most successful automated effort to date."

Both Clemens and Mercer are members of the multi-institutional Glimpse team led by Dr. Edward Churchwell of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The group was selected to survey the galactic plane with Spitzer's infrared array camera in November 2000 as part of Spitzer's Legacy program. So far, more than 30 million stars in the inner Milky Way have already been catalogued by Glimpse, and the team expects to identify more than 50 million stars by the end of the project.

"By making the galactic plane transparent, Spitzer opens a new door for astronomers to study the Milky Way," says Churchwell. "Some of the most interesting science likely to come out of this project will be serendipitous discoveries, which will open up entirely new avenues of inquiry."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Spitzer Exposes Our Galaxy's Deepest Secrets." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 December 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/12/051216184108.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2005, December 22). Spitzer Exposes Our Galaxy's Deepest Secrets. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/12/051216184108.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Spitzer Exposes Our Galaxy's Deepest Secrets." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/12/051216184108.htm (accessed April 20, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Captured by International Space Station

SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Captured by International Space Station

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 20, 2014) SpaceX's unmanned Dragon spacecraft makes a scheduled Easter Sunday rendezvous with the International Space Station. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Easter Morning Delivery for Space Station

Raw: Easter Morning Delivery for Space Station

AP (Apr. 20, 2014) Space station astronauts got a special Easter treat: a cargo ship full of supplies. The SpaceX company's cargo ship, Dragon, spent two days chasing the International Space Station following its launch from Cape Canaveral. (April 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Hoax? Cosmetics Company Wants To Brighten The Moon

A Hoax? Cosmetics Company Wants To Brighten The Moon

Newsy (Apr. 19, 2014) FOREO, a Swedish cosmetics company, says it wants to brighten the moon to lower electricity costs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station

Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) On it's second attempt this week, The Space X company launched Friday from Cape Canaveral to ferry supplies to the International Space Station. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins