From ESA Herschel via ScienceDaily: “A Twisted Ring in the Galactic Centre”

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July 21, 2011 (Posted at Facebook 12.10.12)
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Astronomers at the University of Hertfordshire are part of an international team which has observed unprecedented views of a ring in the centre of our Milky Way galaxy with the Herschel Space Observatory.

Herschel 1
Warmer gas and dust from the Centre of our Galaxy is shown in blue in the above image, while the colder material appears red. The ring, in yellow, is made of gas and dust at a temperature of just 15 degrees above absolute zero. The bright regions are denser, and include some of the most massive and active sites of star formation in our Galaxy (Credit: Image courtesy of University of Hertfordshire)

The ribbon of gas and dust is more than 600 light years across and appears to be twisted, for reasons which have yet to be explained. The origin of the ring could provide insight into the history of the Milky WayThe new results are published in a recent issue of the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

‘Hints of this feature were seen in previous images of the Galactic Centre made from the ground, but no-one realised what it was,’ explained Dr Mark Thompson of the University of Hertfordshire. ‘It was not until the launch of Herschel, with its unparalleled wavelength coverage, that we could measure the temperature of the dust clouds and determine its true nature.”

Herschel is a European Space Agency cornerstone mission, with science instruments provided by consortia of European institutes and with important participation by NASA. Herschel is a flagship mission of the UK Space Agency, which funds the UK’s involvement in the UK-led SPIRE instrument. The SPIRE instrument was built, assembled and tested in the UK at The Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire by an international consortium from Europe, US, Canada and China, with strong support from the Science and Technology Facilities Council. SPIRE was developed by a consortium of institutes led by Cardiff Univ. (UK). The images were obtained as part of the Herschel Key Project Hi-GAL, which is led by Sergio Molinari of the Institute of Space Physics in Rome and who is lead author of the new paper.

The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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