Nav: Home

The Milky Way has one very hot halo, astronomers find

June 01, 2020

The halo that surrounds our own Milky Way galaxy is much hotter than scientists once believed - and it may not be unique among galaxies.

The new findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society, held online this week because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In previous work, researchers at The Ohio State University found that parts of the Milky Way's halo - the hazy fog of dust, gas and dark matter that surrounds some galaxies - was at least 10 times hotter than anyone had known before.

This new research found that the extreme temperatures the researchers found in the original analysis - up to 10 million degrees Kelvin, or about 18 million degrees Fahrenheit - could possibly be found in the entire halo, said Smita Mathur, professor of astronomy at Ohio State.

"We can't say for sure that it is everywhere, because we have not analyzed the entire halo," Mathur said. "But we know now that the temperatures we saw in the first study definitely are not unique, and that is very exciting."

Mathur, senior researcher on the trio of studies presented, said the findings could help astronomers understand more about how the Milky Way and galaxies like it form and grow.

"We are trying to learn about the elements that form these halos, and about the temperatures there," she said. "Knowing those things can help us understand more about how galaxies connect with the rest of the universe, and how they formed and where elements might have come from."

Learning more about the halo, which is the final link between a galaxy and the wider universe around it, could help researchers understand the ways a galaxy grows and changes over time.

The data they analyzed came from an X-ray observatory telescope run by the European Space Agency. That telescope, called XMM-Newton, collects data in X-rays that would have otherwise been blocked by Earth's atmosphere.

The telescope collected that data from within the Milky Way, focused in one direction.

"It showed us that the halo was much hotter than we had known, but it didn't show us whether that was the case throughout the galaxy, or if the telescope had picked up an aberration caused by an unknown force coming from the direction where the telescope was pointed," Mathur said.

Anjali Gupta, a visiting astronomy researcher at Ohio State, analyzed data from the Japanese X-ray satellite telescope Suzaku, which collected spectrum from the Milky Way's halo in four different directions. That analysis confirmed their earlier finding, that the halo is much hotter than had previously been known, and also showed that the other parts of the halo likely are that hot.

The researchers also wondered if the temperatures they found in the Milky Way's halo might be found in other galaxies.

Mathur and Sanskriti Das, a graduate student at Ohio State who co-authored the previous study about Milky Way's halo, analyzed data from a galaxy about 200 million light years away from us. That galaxy, NGC 3221, is similar to the Milky Way in shape and size. The analysis found that the halo that surrounds that galaxy is about as hot as the halo surrounding the Milky Way.

Mathur, Das and Gupta all presented about the findings in separate presentations at AAS.
-end-
CONTACT: Smita Mathur, mathur.17@osu.edu

Written by: Laura Arenschield, arenschield.2@osu.edu

Ohio State University

Related Science Articles:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.
Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.
Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.
World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.
PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.
Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.
More Science News and Science Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.