Editor's Note: The problem with "hitchhiking" is that you don't always end up where go wanted to go. Just ask Arthur Dent! It seems that the conclusion arrived at by the U Mass/U of Virginia team, that our Sun is not from the Milky Way galaxy - has generated some serious controversy. In short, the Sun may not or may be from the Milky Way. You can read the controversy and response at the Bad Astronomy blog and come to your own conclusion. Check it out -it's a fascinating bit of classic scientific rebuttal and eye-gouging.
Take your mind back to your early education, and tell me what galaxy it is that our Solar System inhabits? Your answer is, naturally, the Milky Way galaxy. However everything is not as it seems, according to a study coming out of the University of Massachusetts.
What they learned is that we’re not from the Milky Way galaxy, we come from the Sagittarius Dwarf galaxy!
The Two-Micron All Sky Survey, also known as 2MASS, was a massive astronomical undertaking to map the night sky. Begun in 1997 and completed in 2001, two telescopes (Mt. Hopkins Arizona in the Northern Hemisphere and Cerro Tololo/CTIO Chile in the Southern Hemisphere) targeted the night sky to catalogue all detected stars and galaxies.
The University of Massachusetts study has used the considerable data collected by 2MASS, and finally deciphered why it is that the Milky Way appears sideway in our night sky. The reason for this phenomenon will cause a massive shift in thinking and teaching; we’re not from the Milky Way galaxy, we come from the Sagittarius Dwarf galaxy.
Scientists have long been baffled by the sideways appearance of the Milky Way in our night sky, for if we were indeed a part of the Milky Way, everything would have been aligned accordingly, just as we are aligned with the 8 other planets in our system and our sun. The fact of the matter is the Milky Way galaxy is slowly but surely eating our own Sagittarius galaxy.
"We sifted several thousand interesting stars from a catalog of half a billion," said co-author Michael Skrutskie, U.Va., professor of astronomy and principal investigator for the 2MASS project. "By tuning our maps of the sky to the 'right' kind of star, the Sagittarius system jumped into view."
We’re not the only captives in this galactic struggle. Stars and star-clusters inhabiting the outer parts of the Milky Way galaxy have also been stolen by the larger of the two galaxies, drawn in by its significantly greater gravity. In fact, we are witnessing the end of a 2 billion year meal, in which the Milky Way has slowly consumed the smaller galaxy, and it looks as if Sagittarius has reached the end. "We are seeing Sagittarius at the very end of its life as an intact system,” said 2MASS Science Team member and study co-author Martin Weinberg of the University of Massachusetts.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said it best, when he said that “… things are not what they seem.”