Twisted Ring of Dense Gas at the Center of Our Galaxy

New observations from the Herschel Space Observatory show a fantastic, twisted ring of dense gas at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Alberto Noriega-Crespo of NASA’s Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena say that they have looked at this region at the center of the Milky Way many times before in the infrared, but when they looked at the high-resolution images using Herschel’s sub-millimeter wavelengths, the presence of a ring is quite clear. The giant telescope captured unprecedented views of our galaxy’s inner ring , a dense tube of cold gas mixed with dust, where new stars are forming.

Observations with the ground-based Nobeyama Radio Observatory  in Japan complemented the Herschel results  by  determining the velocity of the denser gas in the ring. The radio results show that the ring is moving together as a unit, at the same speed relative to the rest of the galaxy.The ring lies at the center of our Milky Way’s bar , a bar-shaped region of stars at the center of its spidery spiral arms. According to astronomers the center of the torqued portion of the ring is not where the center of the galaxy is thought to be, but slightly offset. The center of our galaxy is considered to be around “Sagittarius A,” where a massive black hole lies.

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