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Milky Way Galaxy Found to Have More 'Arms' Than Previously Thought

Aided by ground and space-based telescopes, astronomers and astrophysicists are able to conduct stellar surveys of unprecedented scope. These surveys provide the raw data for a multitude of studies and calculations of the various features of our cosmos and, in particular, our galactic home: The Milky Way. In this newest stellar investigation, reported yesterday in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, researchers (Urquhart et al) began with a well-used sample of 1750 “embedded, young, massive stars” that were originally identified by the Red MSX Source (RMS) survey. The purpose here was to measure the distribution of our galaxy’s most recent, massive star formation. These young, massive stars were selected because they are at an earlier stage in their stellar development and so would still reside (“embedded”) within the immense gas and dust clouds from which they formed. In particular, the team look at approximately 800 of these stars (all being 8 times the size of our sun or larger, which is the size that leads to supernovae) that had not yet had their radial velocities (i.e., the speed of a star’s spin) measured. Upon calculating this factor, along with each star’s distance, position, (longitude and latitude) and luminosity, the team was able to identify about 120 small groups, or star-forming sources. Many of these sources were associated with previously identified formation complexes. More Info at PlanetSave.

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