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Milky Way’s neighbouring galaxy is of same size, not bigger

With Andromeda no longer considered the Milky Way's big brother

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Countless galaxies exist in the universe, each hiding secrets that humankind is yet to unearth. Pixabay
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  • Astronomers discover that the other galaxy nearest to us is the same size as ours
  • The name of the other galaxy is Andromeda
  • It is heavier than sun but the same size as Milky Way

In what could put a galactic arms race to rest, astronomers have discovered that our nearest big neighbour, the Andromeda galaxy, is roughly the same size as the Milky Way.

It had been thought that Andromeda was two to three times the size of the Milky Way, and that our own galaxy would ultimately be engulfed by our bigger neighbour.

Galaxy nearest to Milky Way is not larger than it. VOA
Galaxy nearest to Milky Way is not larger than it. VOA

But the new study, published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, evens the score between the two galaxies.

It found the weight of the Andromeda is 800 billion times heavier than the Sun, on par with the Milky Way.

The research suggests scientists previously overestimated the amount of dark matter in the Andromeda galaxy.

Also Read: Planets Beyond Milky Way Galaxy Discovered For First Time

“We had thought there was one biggest galaxy and our own Milky Way was slightly smaller but that scenario has now completely changed,” said Prajwal Kafle from the University of Western Australia.

“By examining the orbits of high speed stars, we discovered that this galaxy has far less dark matter than previously thought, and only a third of that uncovered in previous observations,” he said.

Andromeda  is heavier than sun. VOA
Andromeda is heavier than sun. VOA

The study used a new technique to measure the speed required to escape a galaxy.

“When a rocket is launched into space, it is thrown out with a speed of 11 km per second to overcome the Earth’s gravitational pull,” he said.

“Our home galaxy, the Milky Way, is over a trillion times heavier than our tiny planet Earth so to escape its gravitational pull we have to launch with a speed of 550km/s,” Kafle said.

Andromeda is same size as the Milky way galaxy. Wikimedia Commons
Andromeda is same size as the Milky way galaxy. Wikimedia Commons

“We used this technique to tie down the mass of Andromeda,” he added.

The Milky Way and Andromeda are two giant spiral galaxies in our local Universe, and light takes a cosmologically tiny two million years to get between them.

With Andromeda no longer considered the Milky Way’s big brother, new simulations are needed to find out what will happen when the two galaxies eventually collide, suggests the study.

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Scientists Track ‘Ghost Particle’ to Source for First Time

The blazar that is considered the source of the neutrino was named TXS 0506+056 and is believed to be the first known source of a high-energy neutrino

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This artist's impression of the active galactic nucleus shows the supermassive black hole at the center of the accretion disk sending a narrow high-energy jet of matter into space, perpendicular to the disc in this image by Science Communication Lab in Kiel, Germany, released on July 12, 2018. In a study published in the journal Science, researchers have determined that a supermassive black hole like this one is the source of high-energy neutrinos detected on Earth. (VOA)

Scientists have announced a new finding about the source of a high-energy neutrino, a subatomic particle detected at an observatory at the Earth’s South Pole.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, details the work of more than 1,000 scientists who pooled their research on the tiny particles, which are able to pass through matter in a straight line — like a ghost.

The neutrino’s ability to travel without deviation from its course means its source can be accurately tracked, unlike other types of subatomic particles that can be dragged off course by a magnetic field like the Earth’s.

“[Neutrinos are] very clean, they have simple interactions, and that means every single neutrino interaction tells you something,” said Heidi Schellman, a particle physicist at Oregon State University.

Also Read: Scientists Develop Potential Approach to Treat Dementia, Stroke

The scientists used a large observatory known as IceCube, in use since 2010, to hunt for neutrinos and try to track the source. A group of neutrinos coming from the same location over the past couple of years was determined to have emanated from a blazar, or black hole that aims a jet of radiation at Earth. The black hole is estimated to have been in a distant galaxy that destructed four billion years ago.

The blazar that is considered the source of the neutrino was named TXS 0506+056 and is believed to be the first known source of a high-energy neutrino.

The discovery could be a breakthrough for multimessenger astronomy, where scientists look at the entire electromagnetic spectrum and pool their findings, using known relationships between types of electromagnetic particles to put together a larger picture.

“It is an entirely new means for us to learn about the cosmos,” Roopesh Ojha of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center told The Washington Post. (VOA)