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New, Revised Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy


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.”


University of Virginia News Report


The conclusions presented here are bollocks, in my opinion. Although I have not read their paper, I am confident the astronomers did not say what you are saying: that the Sun was born in the Sag dwarf and later ripped out into the Milky Way. If that were the case, then the Sun's motion would be in the direction of the stellar stream of Sag debris. However, the motion of the Sun is nearly circular in the disk of the Milky Way, with no inclination, which is a clear indication it was born here, in the disk of the milky way. We are not from the Sag dwarf. We are children of the Milky Way.

It is possible that interactions with a dwarf galaxy during a merger event triggered the formation of the Sun in a giant molecular cloud 5 billion years ago. But the dynamical signature of the Sun clearly indicates that molecular cloud was in the disk of the Milky Way.

I hate bad science.

"It is possible that interactions with a dwarf galaxy during a merger event triggered the formation of the Sun in a giant molecular cloud 5 billion years ago."

You beat me to it Michael. While our sun may not have formed in the dwarf galaxy, that interaction could have caused the formation of our sun and solar system. This could answer one of the questions that's been bothering me. If the Milky Way is 13 billion years old why is the sun only five billion years old?

Bad pseudo-science: the original press release from the University of Virginia didn't posit that our star is not part of the Milky Way, and the linked article further embellished the tale by adding in a Mayan demise hypothesis and blaming global warming on this galactic collision.. ugh

RayCeeYa, the reason our star is younger is that it is not a first-generation star. Our form of biological life requires heavier-than-helium elements (carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, iron, etc.) that are only produced in dying stars. In fact, if our star *were* as old as the observed universe there is something seriously wrong with the Big Bang theory.

"the reason our star is younger is that it is not a first-generation star."

To that I say duuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhh.

I knew that. I never said our star was as old as the observed universe either. My issue is that our sun is a lot younger that the rest of the Milky Way Galaxy. This to me implies that something five billion years ago stimulated the creation of new stars in this part of the galaxy. The absorption of a dwarf galaxy could provide just such a stimulus.

I'm not saying the article is right I'm just saying that it made me consider things I hadn't before. And one of those things is that an outside force stimulated the birth of stars in our galaxy and that very neatly explains why our sun is younger than the rest of the GALAXY. Thats GALAXY, not universe.

All you naysayers act like you're world renowned astrophysicists, when in reality you haven't even read the original University of Massachusetts study.

There is compelling evidence for the phenomenon presented in this post. It's not even that radical of an idea, so just take a deep breath and calm down.

@RayCeeYa: Our sun most likely formed the way most stars do, in the swirling eddies of a giant molecular cloud. Those eddies can be caused by external forces, but need not be. Of external influences which can cause them, I think supernova explosions are the most likely. However, there is a growing understanding that the entire halo of the milky way is debris from destroyed satellites (dwarf spheroidal galaxies and globular clusters), and if there were many more merger events in the past, those certainly would have triggered lots of star formation.

@starry-eyed: I am not world-renowned, but I am a trained astrophysicist. I have met Steve Majewski, and my PhD research was on galactic dynamics and debris from galactic satellites. On this subject in particular, I really do know what I'm talking about.

Facts are for the weak minded, those unable to hold onto their own opinions.

First off, will you people read the original material?


From the 2MASS research project, a 2003 (!) press release was only marveling at the coincidence of our solar system being near the intersection of the Sag galaxy with our galaxy, amongst more elaborate detail.

However, certain people or groups, online or otherwise, have corrupted and spun the story.

And sadly the Editor above has only assisted the hyperbole with this their less than clear mish-mash re-hash.

The Editor could have and should have been more forth right in putting things straight in the very first paragraph, instead of tossing out an indirect link that the Editor knew almost no one would bother with.

[Proof, none of the commentators, no not one, not even a PHD managed that task.]

How's about a genuine review followed by a well thought out response? You seem otherwise erudite.

You presented yourself as a bit of a blowhard. Maybe its your choice of phrase.

But as much as the bad science writing of the others offends, I was alarmed by the tangent of your, as you yourself called it, hate.

In your first comment above you readily spew in your first two lines that you are jumping off on opinions and without ever reading the referenced material. How embarassing.

I hope you didn't earn your alleged "PHD" via mailorder, perhaps a track record of "not reading" any source materials?

That would have saved everyones time and my own as well. And demonstrated the talents that brought you your PHD.

Science is supposed to be research and facts -- not knee-jerk retorts.

We already have enough Hollywood movie critics and book reviewers tossing about opinions, also once too often, without having performed their due diligence.

Gentlemen, and ladies, please, don't let us drag science down that same tawdry path.

@Dennis. Did that help? Do you feel better than the other commentators?

Ladies (where are the ladies?) and Gentlemen (who may arrive at any minute) there is not enough evidence yet. There is a good hypothesis that works well inside a certain computer with certain parameters, but not enough data gathering ... yet.

If we are going to discuss that which has not been discussed ... if a merger is taking place, where (and relatively, when) is our solar system likely to meet 'big brother'? How much perturbance to the Oort cloud is required before we find ourselves in (another) comet storm? Can the (apparently) stable dance of the Sun and Jupiter be disturbed as we grow gradually closer to our neighbours ... and who are they? I thought that Andromeda was moving away ... now it appears that she is also dancing around the Milky motorWay? Did we overtake?

More observation, more questions, less discussion of science journalism ... all marketting pays off in the end, even bad marketting.

Bad science is not getting it wrong ... it is not doing it at all.

Sleep well boys ... we have long nights in front of us. ;-)

Well, I have gone through the article,there it clearly says "For only a few percent of its 240 million-year orbit around the Milky Way galaxy does our Solar System pass through the path of Sagittarius debris" that means atleast as per its view our solar system is solely originated from Milky Way and a part of Milky Way only not from SagDwarf,those who has the opinion otherwise on the besis of this article can reconsider there view.

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