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Solar system sits within a major spiral arm of the Milky Way

milky way

Our solar system lives in a major spiral arm of the Milky Way, a new study suggests. This view looking toward the center of the galaxy was taken at the ESO 3.6-meter telescope in the Chilean Atacama Desert.

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Our local galactic neighborhood might be more expansive than previously thought. Rather than being stuck in some backwater galactic community, our solar system lives along a major spiral arm of the Milky Way, researchers report online September 28 in Science Advances.

Astronomers suspected that our arm of the Milky Way — the Orion Arm — was just a bridge connecting two bands of stars and gas, the Sagittarius and Perseus spiral arms that wrap around the galaxy. Ye Xu, an astronomer at Purple Mountain Observatory in Nanjing, China, and colleagues measured distances to about two dozen stellar nurseries and found that they — and the sun — are scattered along an arm over 20,000 light-years long that parallels the two neighboring arms. This arc of a presumably larger spiral arm is comparable in length to what we can see of the Sagittarius and Perseus arms.

Despite being nestled inside the Milky Way, we know surprisingly little about it. Like trying to map a forest while standing among the trees, our view of the galaxy is limited, blocked by walls of interstellar gas and dust. Astronomers must infer the overall structure of the Milky Way through measurements like these and by comparisons to other nearby galaxies.

Genetics,, Cells,, Science & Society

First ‘three-parent baby’ born from nuclear transfer

By Tina Hesman Saey 6:14pm, September 27, 2016
The first human baby produced through spindle nuclear transfer was born in April, New Scientist reports.

Measles has been eliminated in the Americas, WHO says

By Meghan Rosen 3:11pm, September 27, 2016
Thanks to wide-spread vaccination against the viral disease, measles has officially been declared eliminated from the Americas.
Planetary Science

A salty sea could lurk beneath the heart of Pluto

By Christopher Crockett 5:00pm, September 23, 2016
An ocean more than 100 kilometers thick might hide beneath Pluto’s surface.
Archaeology,, Computing

Digital rehab exposes Biblical roots of ancient Israeli scroll

By Bruce Bower 2:00pm, September 21, 2016
Virtual unwrapping reveals Biblical text on charred remains of ancient Israeli scroll.
Climate,, Oceans

Arctic sea ice shrinks to second-lowest low on record

By Thomas Sumner 5:18pm, September 19, 2016
A warm summer helped shrink sea ice in the Arctic Ocean to a statistical tie with 2007 for the second smallest sea ice minimum on record.
Animals,, Evolution

Hawaiian crows ace tool-user test

By Susan Milius 2:59pm, September 14, 2016
The almost-extinct Hawaiian crow joins the small, select flock of birds shown to use sticks tools routinely and well to wiggle bits of food out of crevices.
Planetary Science

Source of Charon’s red north pole is probably Pluto

By Christopher Crockett 1:00pm, September 14, 2016
The dark red pole on Charon, the largest moon of Pluto, is probably gas that escaped from Pluto and was then transformed by sunlight.
Planetary Science

OSIRIS-REx spacecraft launches tonight for mission to grab asteroid sample

By Christopher Crockett 6:00am, September 8, 2016
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is about to launch for a seven-year mission to study the asteroid Bennu and bring samples of the space rock back to Earth.
Paleontology,, Animals

Jurassic ichthyosaur dubbed ‘Storr Lochs Monster’ unveiled

By Meghan Rosen 9:26am, September 7, 2016
A rare, 170-year-old skeleton discovered in Scotland is one of the best-preserved ichthyosaur fossils from the Middle Jurassic.
Planetary Science

Rosetta spots Philae lander on surface of comet 67P

By Christopher Crockett 12:33pm, September 6, 2016
Missing since November 2014, the Philae comet lander has been found lurking in the shadows on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
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