Astronomy Picture of the Day

Barred Spiral Milky Way

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Barred Spiral Milky Way


A recent survey of stars
conducted with the Spitzer
Space Telescope is convincing astronomers that our
Milky Way Galaxy is not just your ordinary
spiral galaxy anymore.

Looking out from within
the Galaxy's disk, the true structure of
Milky Way
is difficult to discern.

However, the penetrating infrared
census of about 30 million stars indicates that the Galaxy is
distinguished by a very large central bar some 27,000 light-years long.

In fact, from a vantage point that viewed our galaxy face-on,
astronomers in distant galaxies
would likely see a striking barred
spiral galaxy suggested
in this artist's illustration.

While previous investigations have
a small central
barred structure, the new results indicate that the Milky Way's
large bar would make about a 45 degree angle with a line
joining the Sun and the Galaxy's center.

astronomers still
place the Sun beyond the central
bar region, about a third of the way in from
the Milky Way's
outer edge.

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