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92

This whole question is a mistaken premise. There are spherical (or at least nearly spherical) galaxies! They fall into two basic categories - those elliptical galaxies that are pseudo-spherical in shape and the much smaller, so-called "dwarf spheroidal galaxies" that are found associated with our own Galaxy and other large galaxies in the "Local Group". Of ...


31

There are two separate questions there. The easiest one to answer is how we measure the velocity of the Earth, Milky Way etc, because we measure it relative to the cosmic microwave background (or CMB). If you measure the CMB in all directions and find it's the same in all directions then you are stationary in comoving coordinates. However if you find the ...


30

Short answer: A spiral galaxy is, in fact, spherical-like. To understand how, let us as a starting point look at Wikipedia's sketch of the structure of a spiral galaxy: A spiral galaxy consists of a disk embedded in a spheroidal halo. The galaxy rotates around an axis through the centre, parallel to the GNP$\leftrightarrow$GSP axis in the image. The ...


28

Not quite like in the photo above, which shows more than what the naked eye can see, but yes, absolutely! Our galaxy (well, the chunk of it visible from these parts) is a naked-eye object. The fact that your question even exists shows how much time is now spent by people under light-polluted skies. It will not be visible from the city, however. You need to ...


25

The material (gas and stars) in the outer part of a galaxy move with roughly the same velocity as the inner part (for example, see this paper), which means that the inner portions do indeed have a faster angular speed; this is sometimes referred to as the "winding problem." One important feature of spiral arms is that they are bright more because they have ...


25

The estimates I've read are similar to yours: 200 to 400 billion stars. Counting the stars in the galaxy is inherently difficult because, well, we can't see all of them. We don't really count the stars, though. That would take ages: instead we measure the orbit of the stars we can see. By doing this, we find the angular velocity of the stars and can ...


24

Why shouldn't the orbits of stars be Keplerian? The answer is simple. Keplerian orbits are predicated on a single central point mass. That assumption fails to some extent even in a solar system. It fails massively in a galaxy. A galaxy is not a point mass.


23

A typical giant galaxy, such as the one you've provided a picture of, has a radius of something like $10\;\rm kpc$ (kiloparsec - $1\;\rm pc \approx 3.2\;ly$). A supermassive black hole hosted in such a galaxy has a mass of something like $10^6-10^9\;\rm M_\odot$ (solar mass, $1\;\rm M_\odot \approx 2\times10^{30}\; kg$). The monstrous billion solar mass ...


23

Assumption #1 is quite correct - there is a very large ("supermassive") black hole in the center of our galaxy. Assumption #2, however, is false. Black holes are no better at drawing in distant objects than any other thing in space with the same mass would be. If you collapsed the Sun into a black hole right now, the Earth's orbit would not change. That is ...


20

The gravitational potential of the disk of the Milky Way can be approximated as: $$ \Phi = -\frac{GM}{\sqrt{r^2 + (a + \sqrt{b^2 + z^2})^2}} \tag{1} $$ where $r$ is the radial distance and $z$ is the height above the disk. I got this equation from this paper, and they give $a$ = 6.5 kpc and $b$ = 0.26 kpc. In the weak field approximation the time dilation ...


19

Short answer The question is a bit ambiguous. If the question is why do star velocity increase with distance close to the galactic centre ? the answer is because their orbit encompass more mass, and this corresponds to a stronger gravity pull. If the question is why does their velocity stays constant and does not decrease at big radii, ...


18

Actually, there are parts of a galaxy that extend beyond the galactic plane: Galactic halo: This is actually the primary part of a galaxy that is not in the main galactic disk. It's made up of multiple sections, and is composed or an array of objects. Dark matter halo: This is a section of the galaxy's dark matter that exists in a semi-spherical shape. ...


17

All matter in the galaxy has to rotate (not necessarily in the same direction) so that a centrifugal force acts. Without the centrifugal force, all matter contained in the galaxy will collapse into the center of the galaxy due to gravitation. The rotation happens about an axis, a line about which all matter revolves in the galaxy. Now, the manner in which ...


17

There are several theories on how they form like Density Waves and stochastic self-propagating star formation (SSPSF). But you're interested in how they start. Current debate about the arms have two main points: One holds that the arms come and go over time and a second and widely held theory is that the material that makes up the arms - stars, gas and ...


15

To some extent the universe exhibits something called self-organized criticality where a dynamic, non-linear system with many degrees of freedom (the gas after the Big Bang but before the emergence of structure) eventually forms a system with a notable degree of scale invariance (moons orbiting planets, planets orbiting stars, stars orbiting galactic ...


14

Asimov's description is pretty much correct. There aren't many stars out there, so the night sky away from the galactic disk would be fairly dark. Toward the galaxy you you have an edge on view of the galactic disk. As for a sky full of galaxies, you might see a few but probably not. They are intrinsically very faint and moving a few tens of thousands of ...


14

No one has discovered it. Dark matter is a proposed explanation to some observed phenomena. In particular, Galaxies rotate at a speed that implies they are quite heavy, especially towards the outer edges - but when we look at the mass from stars and interstellar gas, there isn't enough to make them spin the way they do. Gravitational lensing is a ...


13

user6972's answer is great, but I thought I'd add a somewhat more technical footnote. If the mathematics are lost on you, skip to the end where I give a simple physical interpretation. The dispersion relation for a differentially rotating fluid disk (i.e. the rotation frequency changes with radius, as opposed to a uniformly rotating disk) is: ...


13

Look at the question a different way: will the Earth get "sucking into" the sun? Answer: no, it's in orbit. Now, black holes are a little different because inside 3/2 of the Schwartchild radius there are no stable orbits, but at very large distances gravity is gravity and orbits are orbits.


13

By definition, anything outside of the observable universe is unobservable. This has the annoying effect (eye twitch) of making it so we have practically no idea what the universe is actually like outside of what we can observe. We can assume that it is homogeneous and isotropic and that there are other large galaxies out there, but there is a non-zero ...


13

I was giving a talk about the galactic black hole at the center, Sagittarius A*, back in 1998. At that time, it was already clear to enlightened people that it had to be a black hole. An analysis of a two-temperature plasma helped to bring some new evidence that the object had a real event horizon. The black hole is huge but it is not "galactically" huge. ...


12

Observing planets in other galaxies is really hard to do because they are so far away and planets are so small. One of our closest neighbors, the Andromeda Galaxy (also called M31), is about $10^{19}$ km away (just under 780 kpc), so finding a planet the size of Jupiter (roughly $10^5$ km diameter) is pretty tough (radius to distance is very small). Even the ...


12

There are many problems with this line of reasoning. The most common galaxy types are elliptical galaxies and spiral galaxies, and there might be a parallel with star systems, where the most common types are systems with a single star, and binary systems with two stars in the middle. There is simply no justification for this. The dynamics of stellar ...


12

Note first that there are three different sources of gravitational potential: the disk, the bulge, and the dark halo. There are a few different models of the gravitational field of the disk, two of the more common potentials are: Kuzmin model: $$\Phi(r,z)=-\frac{GM}{\sqrt{r^2+(a+|z|)^2}}$$ Miyamoto-Nagai model: ...


12

If you have a properly aligned telescope with good setting circles, you can easily use the RA and Dec of the galaxy to locate it (or any other deep space object you have the coordinates for). However, many times you don't have those properly dialed in or you're using an alt-az telescope mount (like a Dobsonian telescope) and need another way to find your ...


11

The idea of the existence of galaxies is certainly not new, and quite a bit older than the field of modern astrophysics. In 1750, Thomas Wright, an English astronomer correctly speculated that the Milky Way was a flattened disk of stars and that some of the nebulae astronomers viewed in their telescopes were separate "Milky Ways". In 1755 Immanuel Kant ...


11

There are two elements to why the universe appears to be so orderly: the physical laws of that govern the universe are the same everywhere, and astronomical objects are very, very, very far from each other. Consider two objects, one much larger than the other, and both very far from anything else. Because of gravity (which works the same everywhere), the ...


11

Elliptical orbits are direct consequence of orbiting entirely outside a spherically symmetric mass. Even if you assume that a galaxy has a spherically symmetric mass distribution, the amount of mass at a radial distance less than that of the star would be changing (assuming some eccentricity). Once that happens, the orbit is no longer an ellipse.


11

Generally speaking they refer to the distances from us when the light as emitted. No correction is usually made to say how far away the object is from us now, because this correction would be very small and inconsequential compared to the uncertainty in the original distance measurement. For instance, taking the Andromeda M31 galaxy as an example. Riess et ...



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