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Science and Technology "Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." - Carl Sagan.

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Old May 21 2013, 10:29 AM   #1
EmoBorg
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Milky Way Galaxy

I am just curious. We have seen images of the Milky Way Galaxy. But how do we have those images ? We Are located in the Milky Way Galaxy and we certainly don't have any thing outside the Galaxy to take pictures and send those images back to us. How do we know it looks like the way it does in the images of the entire Galaxy that we see.
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Old May 21 2013, 10:34 AM   #2
Deckerd
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Re: Milky Way Galaxy

They're computer generated or an artist's impression. One of the reasons nobody is exactly sure how many arms the Milky Way has.
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Old May 21 2013, 10:54 AM   #3
Lt. Uhura-Brown
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Re: Milky Way Galaxy

I can only assume the image is extrapolated from a 360 view of the night sky.
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Old May 21 2013, 12:03 PM   #4
Asbo Zaprudder
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Re: Milky Way Galaxy

I believe the current interpretation of the observations is that the Milky Way is an SBc barred spiral with two major spiral arms.

http://www.space.com/5448-images-milky-loses-arms.html

http://arxiv.org/pdf/astro-ph/0203110v1.pdf

But, as Deckerd says, the interpretation is not a certainty.
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Old May 21 2013, 02:03 PM   #5
Christopher
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Re: Milky Way Galaxy

EmoBorg wrote: View Post
I am just curious. We have seen images of the Milky Way Galaxy. But how do we have those images ? We Are located in the Milky Way Galaxy and we certainly don't have any thing outside the Galaxy to take pictures and send those images back to us. How do we know it looks like the way it does in the images of the entire Galaxy that we see.
We don't know for sure, but we can make extrapolations from what we can see. Galactic arms are defined by nebulae and star-formation regions as well as concentrations of interstellar gas, dust, and young, bright stars. So by measuring the distances to those things that we can see, we can get an approximate sense of how they're laid out within the galaxy, where they're concentrated and where they're not. We can't directly observe anything on the far side of the galaxy because the central bulge is in the way, but we can make best-guess extrapolations based on what we can observe of the galaxy's structure, and by comparison with what we observe of other galaxies' structures. Those other galaxies give us evidence of how galaxies form and what their dynamics are, providing a set of universal rules. And by plugging what we can observe directly about our galaxy into those universal rules, we can extrapolate things about the galaxy's overall shape. It's still a best guess, but it's an educated guess.

Here's a Galaxy Map site that talks some more about the process behind the creation of such maps, and some of the uncertainties that remain. Here's an older page that offers a previous, now-outdated best-estimate map, but scroll down to the second section and it contains a picture showing what we're actually able to observe directly and how those observations let us extrapolate the shape of the arms.
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Old May 21 2013, 03:18 PM   #6
Asbo Zaprudder
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Re: Milky Way Galaxy

Yeah, it's not just visible light -- there are IR and radio observations as well, of course.
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Old May 21 2013, 03:51 PM   #7
Deckerd
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Re: Milky Way Galaxy

I remembered this discussion from a few years ago about looking at galaxies. It's sort of relevant to this conversation (and very interesting).
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Old May 21 2013, 07:32 PM   #8
JustAFriend
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Location: South Florida, USA
Re: Milky Way Galaxy

Actually, our galaxy is a fairly common type.

The photos you see are photos of other, very similar galaxies.

Does it matter? No, because you'd be waiting a billion years to put a ship out far enough to photograph ours....
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