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back to article Suffering SPITZER! Boffins discover Milky Way's MISSING ARMS

For years, boffins have been arguing over whether our galaxy has four spiral arms or just two, as seen by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Artist's impression of the Milky Way You spin me right round ... an artist's impression of the Milky Way The only way to confirm the theory is to try to figure out where the stars are and …

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Alien

… both surveys were looking for different things

This is fascinating, does it mean that two of the arms have only "cooler, lower mass stars like our Sun", and the other two have only "massive" stars?

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Re: … both surveys were looking for different things

No, it means the four arms stand out for having younger, high-mass stars. I think. As noted in the article, the longer-lived, smaller stars have time to smear out of the arms and spread into a disk. The so-called arms and gaps of a galaxy are distinctive for the presence and absence (respectively) of gas and short-lived stars. I think.

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Re: … both surveys were looking for different things

I think it's just that Spitzer is biased and discriminatory toward fatter stars, which are obviously uncool.

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Mostly Harmless

Either way we're still stuck in the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm.

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Re: Mostly Harmless

Yeah, the anal probing has seen a serious uptick around here the last fifteen centuries.

What is the Galactic Empire doing about that??

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Re: What is the Galactic Empire doing about that

Who do you think is doing the probing?...

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Re: Mostly Harmless

"Either way we're still stuck in the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm."

it's the eastern corkscrew intel you need to worry about.

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Re: Mostly Harmless

WESTERN spiral arm? Does such a concept as West exist on a galactic scale?

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Boffin

Re: Mostly Harmless

Hmm.

We do have a northern & southern galactic pole, and if we define stuff moving from east to west (like sun's apparent motion) we could define it, but would need an arbitrary reference point (like Greenwich).

I have no Idea where to put that on a galactic scale.

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> The only way to confirm the theory

Yet more of this petty thinking that slows progress to a crawl! Why not:

(1) Get the attention of some intergalactic[*] herbivores[**] and ask them to take a Polaroid[***] on their next jaunt.

(2) Build a big strong wall (use the stuff from ringworlds) from the core black hole out a very long way, then crouch behind it and count the number of "splats" - when it has been quiet for a very long time it's safe to assume the whole galaxy has become jam.

(3) Multiple the universal time constant by minus one, wait for the universe to regress enough that our galaxy is just forming, then pay closer attention this time.

But instead of manly decisive action we're relying upon boffins counting stars. I blame Obama! (not specifically on this point, it's more a general policy of mine on anything to do with space, like the premature cancellation of Apollo).

[*] Important! intragalactic bug-eyed monsters may be too embarrassed to admit they don't know either and just make up any old rubbish to feel superior

[**] Even more important!

[***] These are BEMs with blasters and hyperdrives and voluptuous Venusian vixens; of course they have advanced to the Polaroid stage!

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Re: > The only way to confirm the theory

or just give the Milky Way a camera phone and wait for it to take the inevitable selfie.

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When I look at our galaxy and realize there are billions more, it's hard for me to get self-absorbed with minor, daily problems. I feel very temporary and insignificant in the universe. I'm glad I've had the opportunity to understand a small part of it.

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Yep I've had some happy time gazing at the stars, but unfortunately I only manage to feel such selfless tranquility for a few seconds before something mundane interrupts. In my heart of hearts I fear I aspire to become an exec like this:

Exec #1: Item six on the agenda: "The Meaning of Life" Now uh, Harry, you've had some thoughts on this.

Exec #2: Yeah, I've had a team working on this over the past few weeks, and what we've come up with can be reduced to two fundamental concepts. One: People aren't wearing enough hats. Two: Matter is energy. In the universe there are many energy fields which we cannot normally perceive. Some energies have a spiritual source which act upon a person's soul. However, this "soul" does not exist ab initio as orthodox Christianity teaches; it has to be brought into existence by a process of guided self-observation. However, this is rarely achieved owing to man's unique ability to be distracted from spiritual matters by everyday trivia.

Exec #3: What was that about hats again?

Exec #2: Oh, Uh... people aren't wearing enough.

Exec #1: Is this true?

Exec #4: Certainly. Hat sales have increased but not pari passu, as our research...

Exec #3: [Interrupting] "Not wearing enough"? enough for what purpose?

Exec #5: Can I just ask, with reference to your second point, when you say souls don't develop because people become distracted...

[looking out window]

Exec #5: Has anyone noticed that building there before?

But (rather like art galleries) my mild shame at not doing more civilised things myself is at least balanced by awe at and gratitude for those who do, like these star mapping boffins.

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Anonymous Coward

The Total Perspective Vortex is not your friend

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Vic
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> I feel very temporary and insignificant in the universe.

You get that with fairy cake...

Vic.

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Pari passu?

I originally translated that as "hat in hand", but it isn't is it. Although it would explain why people aren't wearing enough hats.

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Joke

Men do not wear enough hats!

Indeed!! This is why I wear at least one every day (the roo leather Barmah today). Essential!!! The only way to fully appreciate the meaning of life!!!! Ask any wizard or witch about the importance of hats!!!!!!

Yes I'll have the kippers today! Hooray!! How do we do it? VOLUME!!!

Mine is the one with the dried frog pills in the pocket (left one, the right has a miniature universe in it)

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"But (rather like art galleries) my mild shame at not doing more civilised things myself is at least balanced by awe at and gratitude for those who do"

If you're ever in St Ives, visit the Tate Modern. It is a five star attraction that offers a "kill or cure" outcome for undecided visitors. The building's fantastic, in a great location. In my case it confirmed that modern art is mostly shit, with pride of place given (for example) to a single sheet of A4 paper with a single large solid black diamond shape on it. Or weird bronze castings that look like an experimental French urinal (as opposed to Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain", which is a urinal). Boxes of books you rummage around in and then insert cut out text in between the pages to "create art". The obligatory whole room devoted to some woman who you've never heard of, but who produced a lot of rather dull and uninteresting paintings and junk sculptures then "went and lived the rest of her life as a man on the West Bank in Paris".

And the whole experience is rounded off by traditional po-faced babooshkas to shoo you away when you mistakenly sit on an exhibit because it looks like a bench. YMMV, you might find you love it, but I commend the place to anybody: Those who love modern art (and can't see when an "artist" is talentless and simply taking the piss); those who are undecided; and those who are fairly sure they won't like it, but have a good sense of humour.

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Meh

size, value

so you feel your value is affected by the existence of large objects ? Since when was a ruler of some kind a measure of intrinsic value ? Logic please, there is enough category confusion in the grey slop of western thought.

As for said researchers, nice work explaining the discrepancy between observations. Better galactic maps will help when negative energy warp drives get built by the next but one civilisation.

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Yep Ledswinger - totally agree re Tate Modern in St Ives - I live back around the coast a few miles and it must be said it all looks much better from a considerable distance!

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But Where Is...

...the red dot that says "You are here"?

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Re: But Where Is...

If the red dot is wandering round your chest and apparently has something to do with a man in a balaclava standing over there, it's saying "...but not for very long"

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How do they know that they're arms and not legs?

See title.

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Re: How do they know that they're arms and not legs?

But if that had legs it'd have feet and...

Oh God! what is that smell?

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Re: How do they know that they're arms and not legs?

Or Noodley Appendages?

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Compromise

We should compromise on 3 arms. Or Legs. What's that smuggness coming from the Isle of Man then?

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Re: Compromise

Or Sicily...

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Pics or it didn't happen.

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Coat

Douglass Adams was right, once again.

After all, you cant have an "unfashionable" western spiral arm of a galaxy, without the corresponding Northern, Eastern and Southern arms.

<-- I'll grab my dressing gown. Its the one with the pack of peanuts in the pocket.

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Alien

Re: Douglass Adams was right, once again.

I'd leave the peanuts unless you intend to travel by matter-transference beam. I'd grab the towel myself.

What I've never understood is why, if the Earth is in the unfashionable western Spiral arm of the galaxy, Ursa Minor Beta (β UMi or Kochab) which is a mere 126 light-years distant and thus in the same arm is the third hippest place in the Universe, and contains the second hippest place. The Hippest place may also be there (Zaphod Beeblebrox's left cranium) if he happens to be visiting the entrance lobby to the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy offices.

"When you are tired of Ursa Minor Beta you are tired of life." (Playbeing magazine).

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Coat

Re: Douglass Adams was right, once again.

I thought Rimwards, Hubwards, Turnwise, and Widdershins were the principal directions in a disc.

Mine is the one with "Raising Steam" in the pocket

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Gav

Re: Douglass Adams was right, once again.

"Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy ... "

It is not the western spiral arm that is unfashionable, just our end of it..

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Re: Douglass Adams was right, once again. @Gav

Good point. I should have remembered the exact quote better, especially considering how much of a wordsmith Douglas was. But still 126 ly is nothing bearing in mind that the diameter is 100,000-120,000 ly.

The distance from Earth to the centre of the galaxy is about 27,000 ly, so Ursa Minor Beta at 126 ly from Earth is just next door.

Betelgeuse, which is often quoted as being close is ~643 ly, which is considerably further away.

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Re: Douglass Adams was right, once again. @Gav

But unfashionable areas can start very quickly

We should describe ourselves as "Ursa Minor Borders"

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Nice artist's impression...

...but I would have said it shows a barred-spiral with only two arms.

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