Scientific Red Flag Spotted in Milky Way’s Dark, Dusty Center – Oddity Moving in the Direction of Earth

Milky Way Galaxy

Milky Way Galaxy

Scientific ‘Red Flag’ Reveals New Clues About Our Galaxy

Figuring out how much energy permeates the center of the Milky Way — a discovery reported in the July 3 edition of the journal Science Advances — could yield new clues to the fundamental source of our galaxy’s power, said L. Matthew Haffner of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

The Milky Way’s nucleus thrums with hydrogen that has been ionized, or stripped of its electrons so that it is highly energized, said Haffner, assistant professor of physics & astronomy at Embry-Riddle and co-author of the Science Advances paper. “Without an ongoing source of energy, free electrons usually find each other and recombine to return to a neutral state in a relatively short amount of time,” he explained. “Being able to see ionized gas in new ways should help us discover the kinds of sources that could be responsible for keeping all that gas energized.”

University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate student Dhanesh Krishnarao (“DK”), lead author of the Science Advances paper, collaborated with Haffner and UW-Whitewater Professor Bob Benjamin — a leading expert on the structure of stars and gas in the Milky Way. Before joining Embry-Riddle in 2018, Haffner worked as a research scientist for 20 years at UW, and he continues to serve as principal investigator for the Wisconsin H-Alpha Mapper, or WHAM, a telescope based in Chile that was used for the team’s latest study.

To determine the amount of energy or radiation at the center of the Milky Way, the researchers had to peer through a kind of tattered dust cover. Packed with more than 200 billion stars, the Milky Way also harbors dark patches of interstellar dust and gas. Benjamin was taking a look at two decades’ worth of WHAM data when he spotted a scientific red flag — a peculiar shape poking out of the Milky Way’s dark, dusty center. The oddity was ionized hydrogen gas, which appears red when captured through the sensitive WHAM telescope, and it was moving in the direction of Earth.

The position of the feature — known to scientists as the “Tilted Disk” because it looks tilted compared with the rest of the Milky Way — couldn’t be explained by known physical phenomena such as galactic rotation. The team had a rare opportunity to study the protruding Tilted Disk, liberated from its usual patchy dust cover, by using optical light. Usually, the Tilted Disk must be studied with infrared or radio light techniques, which allow researchers to make observations through the dust, but limit their ability to learn more about ionized gas.

“Being able to make these measurements in optical light allowed us to compare the nucleus of the Milky Way to other galaxies much more easily,” Haffner said. “Many past studies have measured the quantity and quality of ionized gas from the centers of thousands of spiral galaxies throughout the universe. For the first time, we were able to directly compare measurements from our Galaxy to that large population.”

Krishnarao leveraged an existing model to try and predict how much ionized gas should be in the emitting region that had caught Benjamin’s eye. Raw data from the WHAM telescope allowed him to refine his predictions until the team had an accurate 3-D picture of the structure. Comparing other colors of visible light from hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen within the structure gave researchers further clues to its composition and properties.

At least 48 percent of the hydrogen gas in the Tilted Disk at the center of the Milky Way has been ionized by an unknown source, the team reported. “The Milky Way can now be used to better understand its nature,” Krishnarao said.

The gaseous, ionized structure changes as it moves away from the Milky Way’s center, researchers reported. Previously, scientists only knew about the neutral (non-ionized) gas located in that region.

“Close to the nucleus of the Milky Way,” Krishnarao explained, “gas is ionized by newly forming stars, but as you move further away from the center, things get more extreme, and the gas becomes similar to a class of galaxies called LINERs, or low ionization (nuclear) emission regions.”

The structure appeared to be moving toward Earth because it was on an elliptical orbit interior to the Milky Way’s spiral arms, researchers found.

LINER-type galaxies such as the Milky Way make up roughly a third of all galaxies. They have centers with more radiation than galaxies that are only forming new stars, yet less radiation than those whose supermassive black holes are actively consuming a tremendous amount of material.

“Before this discovery by WHAM, the Andromeda Galaxy was the closest LINER spiral to us,” said Haffner. “But it’s still millions of light-years away. With the nucleus of the Milky Way only tens of thousands of light-years away, we can now study a LINER region in more detail. Studying this extended ionized gas should help us learn more about the current and past environment in the center of our Galaxy.”

Next up, researchers will need to figure out the source of the energy at the center of the Milky Way. Being able to categorize the galaxy based on its level of radiation was an important first step toward that goal.

Now that Haffner has joined Embry-Riddle’s growing Astronomy & Astrophysics program, he and his colleague Edwin Mierkiewicz, associate professor of physics, have big plans. “In the next few years, we hope to build WHAM’s successor, which would give us a sharper view of the gas we study,” Haffner said. “Right now our map `pixels’ are twice the size of the full moon. WHAM has been a great tool for producing the first all-sky survey of this gas, but we’re hungry for more details now.”

In separate research, Haffner and his colleagues earlier this month reported the first-ever visible-light measurements of “Fermi Bubbles” — mysterious plumes of light that bulge from the center of the Milky Way. That work was presented at the American Astronomical Society.

Reference: “Discovery of Diffuse Optical Emission Lines from the Inner Galaxy: Evidence for LI(N)ER-like Gas” by D. Krishnarao, R. A. Benjamin and L. M. Haffner, 3 July 2020, Science Advances.
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay9711

Research described in the Science Advances paper, “Discovery of Diffuse Optical Emission Lines from the Inner Galaxy: Evidence for LI(N)ER-like Gas,” was supported in part by the National Science Foundation for WHAM development, operations, and science activities including grants AST-0607512, AST-1108911, and AST-1714472/1715623; NASA grant NNX17AJ27G; and IDEX Paris-Saclay grant ANR-11-IDEX-0003-02.

64 Comments on "Scientific Red Flag Spotted in Milky Way’s Dark, Dusty Center – Oddity Moving in the Direction of Earth"

  1. Phyvyn Last5% | July 3, 2020 at 1:52 pm | Reply

    Could that be Einstein’s sneaky action at a distance?

    • Torbjörn Larsson | July 4, 2020 at 3:25 pm | Reply

      I think you mean Newton’s action at a distance, which is a property of classical physics – and modern quantum physics – fields. There isn’t any description of entanglement, which is what Einstein referred to.

      They are looking for an energy source. It is unlikely to be a quantum field. The LINER-like emissions in galaxies are not attributed to active galaxy nuclei – and here it starts away from the galactic center – but to distributed sources (could be giant stars, or what have you) [ ]

  2. Phyvyn Last5% | July 3, 2020 at 2:01 pm | Reply

    Did we instantiate any (laser?) photon event streams to capture intelligence via atmosphere.. I would whisper quantum but that is not even fempto-scale vs. temporal presence of the core.

    • Brett pendley | July 3, 2020 at 4:58 pm | Reply

      Is it going to kill us and how long will it take to get here and do we need to worry about it?

      • Phyvyn Last5% | July 4, 2020 at 1:34 am | Reply

        Life is but a dream go back to sleep you will feel better when you wake up.

        Still wouldn’t it be cool if that core thingy could use gravity and those flourine atoms in the sky? Maybe then we get to go to kindergarten.

  3. Brett pendley | July 3, 2020 at 4:33 pm | Reply

    Is it going to kill us and how long will it take to get here do I need to worry about it?

  4. People think it’s a joke but in all reality the Lord Jesus Christ will soon return

    • I don’t disagree while adding The Lord is integral to our presence; Jesus Christ strives to Live through OUR Hearts , words, deeds – So that we can know our incredible potential as the children of God. Many people are awakening to clues indicating Christ returns via OUR Christ-like ascent; our collective consciousness and bliss found being unified in the knowledge WE ARE CHRIST – we are of the same intelligent, loving energy source – and capable of manifesting our reality. When it boils down to it, I see only two forms of matter from which everything is formed:
      Love / Fear

    • Torbjörn Larsson | July 4, 2020 at 3:29 pm | Reply

      That is superstition, irrelevant to what happens in nature.

    • Russell Mills | July 6, 2020 at 11:47 am | Reply

      Most people don’t think it’s a joke — they just consider it nonsense.

  5. Its 28000 light years away….i think were safe.

  6. Matt Russillo | July 3, 2020 at 6:29 pm | Reply

    That’s CARMEL!

  7. That’s another one for Apocalypse bingo.

    • Torbjörn Larsson | July 4, 2020 at 3:30 pm | Reply

      Why? It is far away, and presumably an old structure.

    • Torbjörn Larsson | July 4, 2020 at 3:33 pm | Reply

      Oh, I see – you are referring to the article description of the appearance from Erth of the elliptical orbit of the structure’s gas component.

      An orbit around the center will keep be an orbit around the center.

  8. Chris Kassel | July 3, 2020 at 7:09 pm | Reply

    What I dont get is how Hydrogen is striooed of Electrons (Plural) when it only has 1 elevtron and without that 1 electron its only a Proton and not Hydrogen at all? Ut should be inpossible to Ionise Hydrogen because there is only 1 electron????

    • I was with you on this thought. I think it’s an oversight or perhaps shorthand for “many single electrons from single hydrogen atoms” but I’m leaning toward the former.

    • Torbjörn Larsson | July 4, 2020 at 3:34 pm | Reply

      Hydrogen is often a molecule of di-hydrogen. Hence the molecule can lose two electrons.

  9. Cool article with ridiculously click-bait headline. We need less of that, please stop.

  10. Ybs_Itsurboi | July 3, 2020 at 7:27 pm | Reply

    Is it going to hit Earth in our lifetimes and will it kill us? Someone please answer I’m Having anxiety

    • No. The title is misleading. Please do not worry about it. It is merely a novel scientific observation being written about out of context to get people to click on the article.

    • Ybs_Itsurboi. No. The earth will never be destroyed. Psalms 104:5

      • Torbjörn Larsson | July 4, 2020 at 3:29 pm | Reply

        Priscilla: No, Earth will become too low CO2 for plant life in about a billion years, and eventually Sun will enter the red giant phase of similar massed stars and engulf Earth.

        Your comment troll superstition, irrelevant to what happens in nature.

    • Torbjörn Larsson | July 4, 2020 at 3:38 pm | Reply

      In “our lifetimes”? The galactic center is 50,000 light years away, so it takes even light 50,000 years to get here.

      From the article: “The structure appeared to be moving toward Earth because it was on an elliptical orbit interior to the Milky Way’s spiral arms, researchers found.” In other words, the gas is in an orbit – which it will no easily leave – around the center of the galaxy, far away from us.

      Really, the title and the article is just trying to be interesting. The way to beat that is to try to learn how to read this stuff.

      • Torbjörn Larsson | July 4, 2020 at 3:40 pm | Reply

        I should add that even if the physics is limited – part of an odd system at the center of the galaxy – it is somewhat interesting (tells about where the dominant center activity drops off). But not as much as the title would lead you to believe.

  11. Something in your lifetime will certainly kill you. Live in LOVE, not fear.

  12. ANy attempt to generally share how cosmologists think, what they think, what they do and how they do it is ludicrous.

    • Torbjörn Larsson | July 4, 2020 at 3:42 pm | Reply

      Not at all. I got interested in cosmology again when they found dark energy some years ago, and the old big bang universe cosmology was replaced by the modern inflationary big bang cosmology for sure. It took a year to get up to speed, but then again I like to read the science papers directly.

  13. No no no its covid19. Meteor
    Your dead if uour not wearing a mask

    • Torbjörn Larsson | July 4, 2020 at 3:43 pm | Reply

      That’s not what the statistics say.

      Social distancing and hand washing is A and O of every epidemic, and it works here too [WHO].

  14. Communist party of china controlling not only earth galaxy aswell.. CPC red flag found in galaxy is the proof

  15. The Creator of the universe assures us in his book the Bible that the earth will never be destroyed. Please read Psalms 104:5.

  16. Geeze, we have to do better at getting science into the real world! There are actually people who believe their view of the universe is true, without science. That is not an option for our survival! If God is all knowing, he must agree with facts. If we continue on with our hubris, he will surely punish us! We are here for God, not for our personal interests, not to rape the bounty of our planet!! We are its shepards, not it’s master. We have a duty!

  17. And that’s the synopsis for the new Hollywood movie starring Brad Pitt.

  18. Hmm Ionized plasma… hmm 12k year cylcles and the Ridge Study (2019 nov I think) that shows waves in out glactic sheet that hit us roughly 11.5k years ago and tossed all kind’s of fun at us and possibly super heated plasma due to a direct hit to our star (aka 1700c + damage on most older the 11k+ structures ). Bad news boys and girls it’s not a “blackhole” in the middle of 1/3 of galaxies there much scarier Quasars type and if that’s the case we are now just seeing the gas ionized and I’d put it 1k to as little as 500 years before we are well (inset your catastrophe) don’t worry tho we should be getting the faster heavyer particals to confirm this in the next 5-10 years. Now these will cause things in the entire solarsystem to heat up o wait (Mars2017 study/Global warming on earth (I wonder) co2 is still way below some of earth spikes in ice cores and lava cuts over a 25k year time span (deep core 2016-2020 study)temperature rising and new storms on our gas big boys out there …remeber we are already seeing the light. Now I am not trying to scare not at all and I can refer to almost 200 study that point at the elephant in the room. Time for us to drop all this humman dogma and work to SAVE your greatx5 or 6 generations from now or really your existence is a waste. Just food for thought as well as your saying what a moron. Listen to Ragan’s speech they have know I wish you all peace love and joy. Alexander P.

    • Brett pendley | July 4, 2020 at 1:29 pm | Reply

      So we have 500 years before it is a threat to us and do I worry about it happening in our lifetime?

    • Torbjörn Larsson | July 4, 2020 at 3:49 pm | Reply

      This isn’t directly about central super massive black holes and the quasars active such galactic centers make. Nor is it a threat to us, the article says explicitly the observed gas is in an elliptic orbit around the galactic center.

      Your link seems to go to irrelevant pseudoscience and/or conspiracy theory.

      • Phyvyn Last5% | July 5, 2020 at 1:58 pm | Reply

        TL would it be that hard to entangle temporal matter from the same source and time? After all we are all rust right? Thanks!

  19. Priscilla, I’ve enjoyed your comments. Are you familiar with Caleb and Sophia?

  20. Tiny Hankerson | July 4, 2020 at 10:36 am | Reply

    Genesis1: In the beginning God created Heaven and Earth. Only God Jehovah, The Almighty God, could create a Universe. He created the Moon, the Stars, the Sun, Oxygen, and everything that pertains to our lives. The fool has said in his heart, there is no God, according to Proverbs, that’s in the Bible. Read it.

  21. Tiny Hankerson | July 4, 2020 at 10:51 am | Reply

    Revelation 21:1, There will be a new Heaven and a new Earth. For the first Heaven and the first Earth will pass away. Jesus is coming to set His government on the new Earth. Receive Him, and be ready when He comes. Amen Amen🙏🙏

  22. You all needto start following this guy. You are late to the party.

  23. I love the bible trolls in here. The ionizing source is definitely Jesus.

  24. Charlie Brown | July 4, 2020 at 12:24 pm | Reply


  25. Brett pendley | July 4, 2020 at 1:27 pm | Reply

    So we have 500 years before it hits us?

  26. Johnathan winter's | July 4, 2020 at 3:00 pm | Reply

    Does this mean Ann Margaret won’t be coming for dinner?!

  27. To the religiously impaired, I would say this: Science. It works – b*****s.

  28. Astronomywannabe | July 4, 2020 at 7:00 pm | Reply

    Black Holes Matter!

  29. Mr. Know-it-all | July 5, 2020 at 1:25 am | Reply

    It’s what’s left of the center of our native galaxu that merged with the Milky Way. Our solar system wasn’t originally part of the Milky Way.

  30. I believe they said its 28,000 light years away and since 1 light year is 6 trillion miles I think this is going to take a very very very very very…. Long time before it even starts to become an Issue for earth.

  31. Phyvyn Last5% | July 5, 2020 at 2:03 pm | Reply

    My comments are off field yet I hope others are considering this actual event to physics beyond today.

  32. Russell Mills | July 6, 2020 at 11:54 am | Reply

    According to the article, “… free electrons usually find each other and recombine to return to a neutral state in a relatively short amount of time”.

    But electrons are negatively charged and they repel each other. How could they possibly “recombine” and become neutral? This makes no sense at all.

    • Anton Szautner | July 6, 2020 at 12:21 pm | Reply

      The free electrons recombine with ionized atoms which are missing electrons in their electron shells because they are struck by energetic photons which kick them out, which is why there are so many free electrons available. The ionized atoms are POSITIVELY charged and readily welcome the negatively charged electrons. But I would agree that was inadequately described in the article.

  33. Anton Szautner | July 6, 2020 at 12:06 pm | Reply

    The hyped blather in the pop “news” about the visible portion of the structure “headed for Earth” is pathetic and as excruciating as ever. Pointing that out is just as significant to the actual story as noting that half the kids riding on a merry-go-round in Los Angeles are moving toward mystified observers in New York. Gee, what a tremendous coincidence! It is obvious we must be very special and hold a privileged position in the cosmic scheme of things: “THEY” are aiming straight at us!

  34. Please don’t tell me you think that’s the reincarnation of god. 🤨 please let this be a scientific chat not Sunday school. Thank you.

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