Thursday, January 3, 2013

Australian scientists map galactic space geysers

The researchers believe the space geysers (in pale blue) are caused by young stars and exploding stars.

Australian researchers say they have helped map "monster outflows" of energy which are visible from Earth and are streaming from the centre of the Milky Way at an estimated 1,000 kilometres per second.

A team of astronomers observing the phenomenon from a telescope in the New South Wales town of Parkes say the so-called space geysers are being spewed out of newly-formed stars - and not from a black hole at the centre of the galaxy as previously postulated.

The outflows were detected by astronomers from Parkes as well as the USA, Italy and The Netherlands. They report their finding in today's issue of Nature.

"These outflows contain an extraordinary amount of energy - about a million times the energy of an exploding star," the research team's leader, CSIRO's Dr Ettore Carretti, said.

"They are not coming in our direction, but go up and down from the Galactic Plane. We are 30,000 light-years away from the Galactic Centre, in the Plane. They are no danger to us."

From top to bottom the outflows extend 50,000 light-years out of the galactic plane, equal to half the diameter of our galaxy.

Seen from Earth, the outflows stretch about two-thirds across the sky from horizon to horizon.
Dr Gianni Bernardi, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, says the Parkes observations show that the energy streams are caused by "star-power" and not by a "black hole accretion disc" spinning in the centre of the Milky Way.

"The options were a quasar-like outburst from the black hole at the galactic centre, or star-power - the hot winds from young stars, and exploding stars," he said.

"Our observations tell us it's star-power."

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