Alignment Nebulae Discovered: Scientists Spot Mysterious Pattern

Friday, 06 Sep 2013 02:02 PM

By Robin Farmer

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Astronomers spotted a mysterious alignment in the hub of our galaxy.

Clouds resembling neon butterfly wings left behind by dying stars — called bipolar planetary nebulae — are all pointing in the same direction.

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Astronomers from the University of Manchester made the discovery using the Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory's New Technology Telescope (NTT), reported.

"This really is a surprising find and, if it holds true, a very important one," said Bryan Rees, co-author of the paper to appear in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. "Many of these ghostly butterflies appear to have their long axes aligned along the plane of our galaxy."

“By using images from both Hubble and the NTT we could get a really good view of these objects, so we could study them in great detail," he added.

The astronomers peered closely at the characteristics and appearance of 130 planetary nebulae in the Milky Way's central bulge. They identified three different types.

"While any alignment at all is a surprise, to have it in the crowded central region of the galaxy is even more unexpected," said Albert Zijlstra, the paper's second author. "We can learn a lot from studying these objects."

"If they really behave in this unexpected way, it has consequences for not just the past of individual stars, but for the past of our whole galaxy," he added.

Some commenters said the discovery has greater implications.

“We are not the only life in our universe let alone the vast amount of new galaxies we are now just finding, so the more we know hopefully the better capable we will be able to handle what is,” posted one commenter.

Another wrote: “Plasma Cosmology would explain (electrically) such alignments, as well as the existence and shape of galaxies and large structures-of-galaxies as we observe in the farthest-reaching Hubble photographs. Not to say there is no God, only that He/She/It could have just as easily ‘conjured’ up a plasma Universe instead of a Big Bang Universe, and the plasma Universe is the ONE that agrees with observation, that's all I am saying."

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Billions of Planets Might Support Life, Astronomers Say

Planet Reveals Its True Colors

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