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Astronomers discover giant wave-shaped structure in the Milky Way – CNN

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This wave — now known as the “Radcliffe Wave” for the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study — extends in crests that are 500 light-years both above and below the middle of our galaxy’s disk. The long structure stretches for 9,000 light-years total and measure 400 light-years wide. It’s the largest of its kind in our galaxy.
The finding was announced Tuesday at the 235th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu.
Researchers from Harvard University analyzed data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia spacecraft, which has been measuring stars since 2013. Gaia’s data was used to create a 3D map of the Milky Way’s matter. It revealed the wave pattern in one of the Milky Way’s spiral arms that is closest to our solar system.
This image shows the Radcliffe Wave, taken from the World Wide Telescope, overlaid on an artist's illustration of the Milky Way and our sun.
“No astronomer expected that we live next to a giant, wave-like collection of gas — or that it forms the Local Arm of the Milky Way,” said Alyssa Goodman, the Robert Wheeler Willson professor of applied astronomy at Harvard University and co-director of the Science Program at the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study. “We were completely shocked when we first realized how long and straight the Radcliffe Wave is, looking down on it from above in 3D, but how sinusoidal [defining the shape of a wave] it is when viewed from Earth. The Wave’s very existence is forcing us to rethink our understanding of the Milky Way’s 3D structure.”
New image reveals explosive history of Milky Way's centerNew image reveals explosive history of Milky Way's center
Previously, the nurseries of star formation in this wave-like structure were thought to be part of “Gould’s Belt.” This band included regions of star formation thought to be arranged in a kind of ring around the sun.
“Instead, what we’ve observed is the largest coherent gas structure we know of in the galaxy, organized not in a ring but in a massive, undulating filament,” said João Alves, professor of stellar astrophysics at the University of Vienna and former Radcliffe Fellow. “The Sun lies only 500 light-years from the Wave at its closest point. It’s been right in front of our eyes all the time, but we couldn’t see it until now.”
And as it turns out, we actually interact with this wave.
The Milky Way's black hole kicked a star out of our galaxyThe Milky Way's black hole kicked a star out of our galaxy
“We don’t know what causes this shape but it could be like a ripple in a pond, as if something extraordinarily massive landed in our galaxy,” Alves said. “What we do know is that our Sun interacts with this structure. It passed by a festival of supernovae as it crossed Orion 13 million years ago, and in another 13 million years it will cross the structure again, sort of like we are ‘surfing the wave.’ “
The 3D map could just be the beginning for other new discoveries in our galaxy. Although we live in the Milky Way, it can be difficult to study because of gas and dust that obscures the view from our vantage point in the galaxy.
This week, NASA shared a new infrared image that cuts through the gas and dust to look in detail at the center of our galaxy. The image reveals more than 600 light-years and allows astronomers to better study the formation of massive stars and the diet of the black hole at the galactic center.
A new composite infrared image of the center of our Milky Way galaxy.A new composite infrared image of the center of our Milky Way galaxy.
The perspective was possible because of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, the world’s largest airborne telescope.
“It’s incredible to see our galactic center in detail we’ve never seen before,” said James Radomski, a Universities Space Research Association scientist at the SOFIA Science Center at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “Studying this area has been like trying to assemble a puzzle with missing pieces. The SOFIA data fills in some of the holes, putting us significantly closer to having a complete picture.”

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Russian crew returns from shooting the first feature film on the ISS – Yahoo Movies Canada

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Shooting for the first feature-length movie in space has wrapped. Space.com reports Russian actress Yulia Pereslid, producer Klim Shipenko and cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy have returned to Earth after the first two spent 12 days filming their movie The Challenge aboard the International Space Station. The three left the ISS in a Soyuz spacecraft at 9:14PM Eastern on October 16th and landed in Kazakhstan just a few hours later, at 12:35AM.

Pereslid and Shipenko arrived on October 5th through an agreement between the Russian space agency Roscosmos, the TV network Channel One and the production studio Yellow, Black and White. Novitskiy had been there since April 9th as part of his regular duties, although he also played a key role — the movie has Pereslid play a surgeon who makes an emergency visit to the ISS to operate on the cosmonaut.

The filming required significant sacrifices for some of the ISS crew. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Russian cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov were originally slated to return aboard the Soyuz capsule, but both have had their stays extended by six months to accommodate the film producers. Vande Hei will set a record for the longest spaceflight by a US astronaut as a result, spending exactly one year in orbit. Pereslid also broke ground as the first professional actor to visit space, beating William Shatner by roughly a week.

It will be a while before The Challenge is ready to watch, and it’s safe to say the production is aimed primarily at a Russian audience. It’s a major milestone for private uses of space, though, and hints at a future when Tom Cruise and other stars are frequently blasting off to produce shows in orbit.

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Russian actor, director arrive back on earth from ISS – Euronews

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A Soyuz space capsule carrying a cosmonaut and two Russian filmmakers has returned to Earth after leaving the International Space Station (ISS) earlier on Sunday.

The capsule landed on the steppes of Kazakhstan carrying Russian actor Yulia Peresild and film director Klim Shipenko, who returned to Earth after filming scenes for the world’s first movie in orbit – a project the Kremlin said would help burnish the nation’s space glory.

Peresild and Shipenko rocketed into orbit in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on October 5 for a 12-day stint on the station to film segments of the movie titled “Challenge,” in which a surgeon played by Peresild rushes to the space station to save a crew member who needs an urgent operation in orbit.

The pair returned to Earth on Sunday with another Russian cosmonaut, Oleg Novitskiy, who also stars as the ailing cosmonaut in the movie.

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VIDEO: NASA’s asteroid hunter Lucy soars into sky with diamonds – Abbotsford News

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A NASA spacecraft named Lucy rocketed into the sky with diamonds Saturday morning on a 12-year quest to explore eight asteroids.

Seven of the mysterious space rocks are among swarms of asteroids sharing Jupiter’s orbit, thought to be the pristine leftovers of planetary formation.

An Atlas V rocket blasted off before dawn, sending Lucy on a roundabout journey spanning nearly 4 billion miles (6.3 billion kilometers). Researchers grew emotional describing the successful launch — lead scientist Hal Levison said it was like witnessing the birth of a child. “Go Lucy!” he urged.

Lucy is named after the 3.2 million-year-old skeletal remains of a human ancestor found in Ethiopia nearly a half-century ago. That discovery got its name from the 1967 Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” prompting NASA to send the spacecraft soaring with band members’ lyrics and other luminaries’ words of wisdom imprinted on a plaque. The spacecraft also carried a disc made of lab-grown diamonds for one of its science instruments.

In a prerecorded video for NASA, Beatles drummer Ringo Starr paid tribute to his late colleague John Lennon, credited for writing the song that inspired all this.

“I’m so excited — Lucy is going back in the sky with diamonds. Johnny will love that,” Starr said. “Anyway, if you meet anyone up there, Lucy, give them peace and love from me.”

The paleoanthropologist behind the fossil Lucy discovery, Donald Johanson, had goose bumps watching Lucy soar — “I will never look at Jupiter the same … absolutely mind-expanding.” He said he was filled with wonder about this “intersection of our past, our present and our future.”

“That a human ancestor who lived so long ago stimulated a mission which promises to add valuable information about the formation of our solar system is incredibly exciting,” said Johanson, of Arizona State University, who traveled to Cape Canaveral for his first rocket launch.

Lucy’s $981 million mission is the first to aim for Jupiter’s so-called Trojan entourage: thousands — if not millions — of asteroids that share the gas giant’s expansive orbit around the sun. Some of the Trojan asteroids precede Jupiter in its orbit, while others trail it.

Despite their orbits, the Trojans are far from the planet and mostly scattered far from each other. So there’s essentially zero chance of Lucy getting clobbered by one as it swoops past its targets, said Levison of Southwest Research Institute, the mission’s principal scientist.

Lucy will swing past Earth next October and again in 2024 to get enough gravitational oomph to make it all the way out to Jupiter’s orbit. On the way there, the spacecraft will zip past asteroid Donaldjohanson between Mars and Jupiter. The aptly named rock will serve as a 2025 warm-up act for the science instruments.

Drawing power from two huge circular solar wings, Lucy will chase down five asteroids in the leading pack of Trojans in the late 2020s. The spacecraft will then zoom back toward Earth for another gravity assist in 2030. That will send Lucy back out to the trailing Trojan cluster, where it will zip past the final two targets in 2033 for a record-setting eight asteroids visited in a single mission.

It’s a complicated, circuitous path that had NASA’s science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen, shaking his head at first. “You’ve got to be kidding. This is possible?” he recalled asking.

Lucy will pass within 600 miles (965 kilometers) of each target; the biggest one is about 70 miles (113 kilometers) across.

“Are there mountains? Valleys? Pits? Mesas? Who knows? I’m sure we’re going to be surprised,” said Johns Hopkins University’s Hal Weaver, who’s in charge of Lucy’s black-and-white camera. “But we can hardly wait to see what … images will reveal about these fossils from the formation of the solar system.”

NASA plans to launch another mission next month to test whether humans might be able to alter an asteroid’s orbit — practice in case Earth ever has a killer rock headed this way.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press


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