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A large new spiral arm of the Milky Way peppered with dense concentrations of molecular gas has been discovered by two Harvard astronmers. What are the odds that this new arm might host an Earth-like planet capable of evolving advanced form of life?
Our Milky Way galaxy, like other spiral galaxies, has a disk with sweeping arms of stars, gas, and dust that curve around the galaxy like the arms of a huge pinwheel. The Sun, Earth, and solar system are located in a spur of material that lies between two of the spiral arms, collectively orbiting around the galaxy about 25,000 light-years from its center. Because the Milky Way contains copious amounts of dust that blocks our optical views, it is extremely difficult to study the galaxy from our vantage point within the disk.
The Milky Way's basic structure is believed to involve two main spiral arms emanating from opposite ends of an elongated central bar. But only parts of the arms can be seen - gray segments indicate portions not yet detected. Other known spiral arm segments--including the Sun's own spur--are omitted for clarity. Credit: T. Dame
It’s as if the Milky Way had formed from the inside out, with the older disk stars forming in the dense galactic center about 12 billion years ago. The upshot is that a 6 billion year old terrestrial planet has a potential 1.5 billion-year technology headstart to produce some pretty awesome next-generation iPods.
Milan Cirkovic of the Astronomical Observatory in Belgrade, points out that the median age of terrestrial planets in the Milky Way is about 1.8 gigayears (one billion years) greater than the age of the Earth and the Solar System, which means that the median age of technological civilizations could be greater than the age of human civilization by the same amount.
Originally posted by Kali74
So much to know and yet so much more to find out, it's like a novel that you love reading and never want to end.
Originally posted by Illustronic
From the illustration it doesn't look distant, and they are missing a lot of 'arms' in that illustration. Just saying, how can I take this seriously?
Some sixteen decades ago, Lord Rosse was the first to point out spiral structure in distant “nebula”… and today astrophysicists Thomas Dame and Patrick Thaddeus are discovering it closer to home. Our Milky Way Galaxy was believed to only have six spiral arms, but their research has revealed an outer extension of the Scutum-Centaurus arm from the inner galaxy.
Is our smoothly constructed galaxy indeed a mirror image of itself? This new evidence suggests the Scutum-Centaurus arm embraces the entire Milky Way – forming a symmetrical, star-forming counterpart to the galaxy’s other arm, Perseus. “Confirmation of the present feature as the ”Outer Sct-Cen Arm” will require a great deal of new data from several telescopes and much observing time over an extended period.” says Thaddeus.