back to article Astroboffins discover Sun is surfing on 9,000-light-year gas wave that acts as Milky Way's stellar nursery

The Milky Way's spiral arm that's home to our Solar System has been found to cradle the largest gaseous structure in the galaxy – a long, thin strip of jumbled star-forming matter measuring 9,000 light-years long and 400 light-years wide. A team of researchers published details of their discovery in Nature this week. Named the …

  1. Alan J. Wylie

    surfing on 9,000-light-year gas wave

    And now I have the Universe Song going round and round in my head.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: surfing on 9,000-light-year gas wave

      If everybody had an ocean

      Across the Milky Way

      Then everybody'd be surfin'

      Like californi-a

  2. Winkypop Silver badge
    Happy

    Forget bringing a towel when hitch hiking the galaxy

    Maybe we should all have a surf board

    1. PerlyKing Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Forget bringing a towel when hitch hiking the galaxy

      See also: Dark Star.

      1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

        Re: Forget bringing a towel when hitch hiking the galaxy

        Good call, though the Dark Star writers nicked that bit, meteor collision and all, from an older SF short story. One of Ray Bradbury's IIRC.

        1. Anonymous Hero

          Re: Forget bringing a towel when hitch hiking the galaxy

          From the short story "Kaleidoscope".

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Forget bringing a towel when hitch hiking the galaxy

      Some of us have a few ...

    3. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Forget bringing a towel when hitch hiking the galaxy

      I blame the mice. So I guess at some point, we'll encounter giant signs telling us to get our new-build luxury star systems here!

      Or perhaps the Vogons, and we'll discover the wave coallesces into the galactic equivalent of the M1.

  3. tapemonkey

    If the red car and the blue car had a race they'd be ok for gas. Only Brits of a certain age will get this

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      And will now have that bloody tune stuck in their heads and will hate you, you bastard!

      1. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge
        Joke

        I have to admit, you do have to applaud lyric writing that managed to creatively turn "cactus" in to "prickly trees". 1980's jingle writers didn't get nearly enough credit.

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          Thank You For Bringing The Goodies Into This.

          My name is Two Gun Pierre

          I wear rose buds in my hair

          And a chic-chic pink bandanna round my neck

          I came down from Tennessee

          With a cowboy on my knee

          And a pair of leather chaps around my legs ... hold on boys!

          I was down in Cripple Creek

          I was dying for a leak

          So I dropped my pants behind a cactus there

          When I fastened up my belt

          I can't tell ya how I felt

          But I knew the meaning of a prickly pear ... ouch!!

          Oh I've got a cactus in my y-fronts and a vulture round my head

          I've just been kissed by a Tennessee miss and I wish that I were dead

          I've a jockstrap made of leather and pants of PVC (ee - ee - ee - ee - ee - ee)

          The cactus in my y-fronts make a loser out of me!

          In Californ - i - a

          Where the rustlers are so gay

          I bought a gentle gee-gee name of Jacques

          But he livened up a lot

          When he felt my prickly spot

          And that buckin' bronco broke my buckin' back!

          So I walked up to Nevada

          Where the gals try so much harder

          And I met a beefy belle called Caroline

          But when she felt my prickles

          She cried "Oh Lord, that tickles!"

          And now she's run off with a porcupine

          Oh I've got a cactus in my y-fronts and a vulture round my head

          I've just been kissed by a Tennessee miss and I wish that I were dead

          Do you like my high heeled horseshoes, I got them from Paree (ee - ee - ee - ee - ee - ee)

          The cactus in my y-fronts make a loser out of me!

          Alright horsey, hoof me a chorus

          [tapping and neighing sounds]

          Oh what a great hoof!

          It's the yodelling coyote

          [howling sounds]

          Oh I've got a cactus in my y-fronts and a vulture round my head

          I've just been kissed by a Tennessee miss and I wish that I were dead

          I've got sequins on my saddle and I smell like a jasmine tree (ee - ee - ee - ee - ee - ee)

          The cactus in my y-fronts make a loser out of me!

          Icon - Anyone of a dozen reasons.

  4. Not Enough Coffee

    My brain doesn't work in a way that lets me understand even how the Sun's diameter and mass was discovered, there's usually an explanation about triangles and projection on a wall, but you'd have to know the distance to the Sun, and that's pulled out of a hat as well. And how can you calculate the Sun's speed? Anyway, if someone knows of a web site that explains this stellar stuff I'd appreciate it. It reminds me of how explanations of electrical circuits fall apart after the analogy to water in a hose and resisters are spigots and presto here's a multi-phase circuit diagram!

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Kepler & Newton's body shop

      I think some of it started here-

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kepler%27s_laws_of_planetary_motion

      and then Newton's theory of gravity. So starting with those assumptions lets you test the theories and solve for unknowns, ie if orbit = x then mass should be y. Wiki also has this history page-

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_gravitational_theory

      showing it's still not completely solved, and space is frickin awesome.. Especially given the early pioneers got pretty close to our modern understanding with far more basic methods & observations.

    2. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      We measure the distance from the Earth to the Sun using light and Jupiter's moons.

      First, we find out how fast light is. Lots of fun with that. Of course, originally, we did not know that it was faster in a vacuum, but it it turns out that this does not make much difference. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fizeau%E2%80%93Foucault_apparatus

      So, light travels at a bit over 186,000 miles/second.

      The next thing we do is watch (and time) the orbits of Jupiter's moons. We find two things. First, that they obey Kepler's laws regarding their orbits. Second, that when Jupiter is in conjunction with the Earth, they appear to be slightly ahead, and when in opposition, slightly behind.

      By how much? By the extra time that it takes light to traverse the distance between Earth when it is further from Jupiter (and its moons) than when it is nearer.

      So we can measure the size of Earth's orbit around, and therefore distance from, the Sun in this fashion.

      --

      As for weighing the Sun, that is trickier. Newton's Law involve the gravitational constant (G), so if we know G, we can determine the Sun's mass from the period of Earth's orbit (now that we know it's size). But what is G? We make a guess. We guess that the Earth is basically granite, which does not compress. We know the Earth's size (which the Greeks worked out thanks to wells in Alexandria & Athens). We know granite's density. So, we have it's mass. We measure it's acceleration on objects to be 9.8m/s^2, so we can compute g to the accuracy of our guess as to the density of the Earth.

      In 1798, the Earth was properly "weighed". See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cavendish_experiment

      --

      As for how fast the Sun is moving, that is even more fun. By the Theory of Gravity, the Sun is orbiting the gravitational center of the galaxy, but what does that even look like? First, we need to get some idea as to the size of the galaxy. The first rungs on the Cosmic Distance Ladder (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_distance_ladder) allow us to measure distances inside the Milky Way. We can use the Doppler Effect (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doppler_effect#Astronomy) to measure speeds as well, and combined, they allow us to figure out how fast things at our distance from the center of the Milky Way are orbiting.

      Simples!

      1. Alan J. Wylie

        > In 1798, the Earth was properly "weighed". See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cavendish_experiment

        The Schiehallion experiment took place 74 years earlier, with an less than than 20%.

    3. Not Enough Coffee

      A lot of nice links there, thanks!

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Science is cool!

        So I'd never heard of the Schiehallion experiment. Or was aware that the experiment also spawned contour lines for cartography. Or even that the Royal Society had a Committee of Attraction. Or that pendulum clocks and gravity could be used as an excuse for being.. very slightly late. Or that you could weigh the Earth using just a handy Scottish mountain!

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    It's one of those things that raises more questions than it answers. Is it a static wave or does it undulate? If the latter, what's its period? How long did it take to form? How did it form? Lots of number crunching to come....

    1. bob, mon!

      ... Is it a static wave or does it undulate? ...

      Quoting from the abstract:

      "Remarkably, the new structure appears to be undulating and its three-dimensional structure is well described by a damped sinusoidal wave on the plane of the Milky Way, with an average period of about 2 kiloparsecs and a maximum amplitude of about 160 parsecs."

  6. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Cowabunga!!!! Surf's up!!!! Cue Beach Boys tunes.....

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