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Visiting a galactic bar

Visiting a galactic bar
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The picture to the right, reduced and sharpened to post here, was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope as part of a research project studying the flow of gases inside barred galaxies. It shows a spiral galaxy, NGC 4731, edge on, located about 43 million light years away. From the caption:

Barred spiral galaxies outnumber both regular spirals and elliptical galaxies put together, numbering around 60% of all galaxies. The visible bar structure is a result of orbits of stars and gas in the galaxy lining up, forming a dense region that individual stars move in and out of over time. This is the same process that maintains a galaxy’s spiral arms, but it is somewhat more mysterious for bars: spiral galaxies seem to form bars in their centres as they mature, accounting for the large number of bars we see today, but can also lose them later on as the accumulated mass along the bar grows unstable. The orbital patterns and the gravitational interactions within a galaxy that sustain the bar also transport matter and energy into it, fuelling star formation.

Astronomers don’t really understand why these barred structures develop, since you would expect the overall gravity of the galaxy would promote a spiral or spherical shape. There must are factors not yet understood or completely identified (such as the magnetic fields of such galaxies).

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.


The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.
 

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

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