Our spiral arm of the Milky Way is bulkier than thought

A new map of the Milky Way shows that the spiral arm that contains our solar system is much larger than previously believed.

New Scientist reports that a group of scientists from the Purple Mountain Observatory in Nanjing, China discovered evidence that our Milky Way neighborhood is just as bulky as comparable areas elsewhere in the galaxy.

The solar system has been thought to be located in the spiral structure called the Local Arm, or the Orion Spur, which scientists have believed is much smaller than the neighboring Perseus Arm.  Other Milky Way appendages are as bulky as the Perseus Arm, and even those which are sporting fewer stars make up for the lesser star count by containing as much gas as the largest arms.

The solar system’s home arm is now looking like it can keep up in the arm size race thanks to a new comprehensive study of the galaxy’s form.

The research team collected data using the Very Long Baseline Array in New Mexico to map the high-mass clouds in the spiral arms.  The team also calculated the clouds’ distances.

“Radio telescopes can ‘see’ through the galactic plane to massive star forming regions that trace spiral structure, while optical wavelengths will be hidden by dust,” Ye Zu of the Purple Mountain Observatory said.

The mapping project revealed a Milky Way that does not have well-defined arms, but rather a number of spiral structures with branches and small spurs.

The so-called Orion Spur in which Earth resides turns out to not be a spur after all, but more like one of the Milky Way’s huge spiral arms.  A spur was also found to connect the Local Arm with the large Sagittarius Arm.

“This lane has received little attention in the past because it does not correspond with any of the major spiral arm features of the inner galaxy,” the study authors wrote.

Further efforts are underway to better map our galaxy, including a 3D mapping project with the European Space Agency’s Gaia spacecraft.

The study was published in the journal Science Advances.


Sam Allardyce sacked after only one game

Big Sam is a legend in the game, with trophies both as a player and as a manager. With the English current crop of players, his style of play was hailed as one that would utilize their strengths. However, His tenure ended after only one game after some scrupulous comments about the transfer market and agents.

The Telegraph carried out some solid investigative journalism and caught him on camera making these comments. The English FA insist that he did not break the law by what he said. Their concern had a man who could attar such things at the helm of English football.

Sam resigned after only 12 hrs of the Telegraph airing this story. “The issue for us was one of our employee’s behaviors and whether he could carry on as England manager having said some of the things he said on television,” said FA chairman Greg Clarke. “I don’t know whether he has broken any rules or not because the FA disciplinary department will investigate. But, he admitted that his behavior was foolish and put his position in jeopardy.”

Allardyce will go down in history as the shortest-serving English manager, and the only other manager sacked during qualifiers. The under 21 manager Gareth Southgate to coach the team as the interim manager.

The Role has proved difficult as no manager has lived up to the expectation of the crop of players dubbed the “golden age.” The team has continuously fallen flat in the biggest stages. The FA and English fans were hoping that Big Sam would go back to the basics like he often does with his team and bring the best out of the team.


World’s largest radio telescope goes online

The largest radio telescope in the world, located in China’s Guizhou Province, is commencing operations.

Sky and Telescope reports that the enormous telescope, called the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), is up and running.  FAST sports a 500-meter-wide radio collection dish, making it the largest filled-in single-dish telescope ever constructed.

FAST’s dish, which is equivalent in size to 30 soccer fields, affords the telescope a collecting area of 70,000 square meters.  The telescope was built in an area surrounded by mountains in order to block as much radio interference as possible.  To further cut down on interference, China relocated over 9,000 people from surrounding villages while constructing the telescope.

Construction began in 2011 and required the placement of 4,450 reflecting panels to complete the giant dish.  The panels are connected to actuators which are used to fine-tune the panels’ positions to maintain the overall dish shape and achieve maximum focus.

FAST is expected to collect a vast amount of data, to the tune of around three petabytes every year.

“This system is already being used by a whole suite of observatories around the world,” Andreas Wicenec of the University of Western Australia said. “During the last few years, the software has been significantly upgraded to support very large data streams like the ones coming out of Square Kilometer Array precursors.”

Once fully tested and proven to be properly functioning, FAST will become available to international science teams looking to collect data on radio signals from distant space.

“As soon as the telescope works normally, the Time Allocation Committee (TAC) will distribute observation time according to the scientific value of the proposals. Proposals from foreign scientists will be accepted as well.  There will also be foreigners on the TAC,” Nan Rendong of FAST said.

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Cheryl Burke talks about helping Ryan Lochte dance

Dancing with the Stars pro, Cheryl Burke, shared how she prepares Ryan Lochte for performance day.

Burke and Lochte are now in jeopardy of being voted off of the show. This doesn’t seem to bother Burke, who joined DWTS in 2006.

“Looking back on Monday’s dance, I really think that Ryan did an amazing job considering all of the drama that’s been happening, Being in the bottom two will hopefully have people vote for us more,” said Burke, who has been blogging during the show for PEOPLE. “I’ve been in jeopardy a lot and I think that it kind of helps. It makes people realize they need to start voting!”

Burke also discussed what she does to help Lochte when he feels overwhelmed with nerves. Lochte was very intense over possibly being voted off.

“I think Ryan was very affected by [the possibility of being voted off],” remarked Burke. “He was shaking and said to me, ‘My legs are shaking. I don’t know what’s going to happen.’ All day I felt his energy because I knew that he thought that he was going to be the one going home, so I think he’s thankful and grateful for everyone who voted. He really isn’t ready to go home yet – he’s put in a lot of time and heart into the show, and he really deserves people giving him a chance. And because of the love and support that we’ve gotten from the dancers, celebrities and crew, I really think he has now moved past it.”


Hubble captures death explosion of sun-like star

When stars like our sun enter their final death throes, the resulting explosions can be spectacular.

NASA posted a photo on Friday of one such explosion which features the energetic demise of a star in a nebula called NGC 2440.  The image, captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows the star throwing off its outer gas layers.  The gas had been closely surrounding the star’s remaining core before its final burst of destructive energy.

The gas is aglow due to the ultraviolet radiation given off by the dying star.  The star at the heart of NGC 2440 is now classified as a white dwarf, having burned down to a small size.  The Earth’s sun will suffer a similar fate in another five billion years or so.

NGC 2440’s glowing cloud of gas is the type of stellar phenomenon known as a planetary nebula, although, despite its name, it has nothing to do with planets.  Planetary nebulae got their name from astronomers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries who thought the nebulae resembled the disks surrounding Uranus and Neptune as seen through early telescopes.

The white dwarf sitting at the center of the NGC 2440 nebula is one of the hottest ever found.  The star’s surface temperature can reach over 360,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

The nebula surrounding the star has an irregular shape, suggesting that the star shed its gas in stages and in various directions.  The overall appearance of the nebula is that of a two-lobed “bowtie” shape.

The gas can be seen glowing with different colors based on the composition of the gas in each area of the nebula, as well as the density of the gas and how close it lies to the scorching white dwarf.  A blue hue in the gas cloud indicates the presence of helium, blue-green indicates oxygen, and red reveals the presence of nitrogen and hydrogen.

In addition to the illuminated gas, the nebula contains a substantial amount of dust, which can be seen forming long, dark streaks radiating outward from the star.

The Milky Way Galaxy is loaded with such nebulae, marking the death sites of numerous sun-like stars.  The star of Hubble’s new photo, NGC 2440, lies around 4,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Puppis.


Brian Kelly says every starting position on his team is up for review

Notre Dame head coach, Brian Kelly announced that all 22 starting jobs on his team are up for grabs.

The announcement came after a 38 to 35 home loss to Duke University on Saturday. Notre Dame has fallen to a one and three record after being predicted to have a promising season. Kelly spoke in a post game press conference on the job security of the players who took the field for him during the game.

“Every position, all 22 of them, will be evaluated,” said Kelly. “Each and every position. There is no position that is untouchable on this football team. And that’s the quarterback, all the way down to — maybe the long snapper’s OK. We’re not going to touch him. But everybody else is vulnerable.”

Kelly singled out redshirt sophomore quarterback, DeShone Kizer. According to Kelly, the play of Kizer on Saturday was “below standard” and “not acceptable.” Kizer threw for 381 yards and ran for 60 more but turned the ball over twice in the loss.

“Guys that have fire and grit and — we had one guy in the entire football team that had emotion and fire. That is Dexter Williams. He’s the only one. He’s the only one that I saw. One guy,” claimed Kelly. “So, if you want to play for me moving forward, you better — I don’t care what your résumé says, I don’t care if you were a five-star [recruit], if you had 100 tackles or 80 receptions or 30 touchdown passes — you better have some damn fire and energy in you. We lack it. We lack it. Severely.”


Michigan State University football players protest during National Anthem

Players for Michigan State University raised their fists during the playing of the National Anthem on Saturday.

Three MSU players started off the protests. Delton Williams, Gabe Sherrod, and Kenney Lyke, all raised their fists before a 30-6 loss to the University of Wisconsin. Michigan State University head football coach, Mark Dantonio, supported the decision by the players to exercise their right to protest.

“To me, your patriotism, your faith are sort of the same — that’s your choice. And it’s influenced by what you’ve experienced in this world. So whether somebody salutes or puts a hand over their heart, everybody has a choice to make,” said Dantonio of the player protest. “I guess they have decisions that people have to make. As long as it’s done in a peaceful way, this is America. That’s what the flag stands for. It stands for the freedom to do what you need to do. That’s the beautiful thing about this country. At some point in time, when the true enemy comes, I guess we’ll all stand together. But I can’t make assumptions for our players, for what they’ve gone through in their lives. All I can do is try and lead the best way I can and be positive and accepting toward our football team and our players. When we come together after the national anthem, we come together in solidarity, and I think that’s what’s important.”

Later in the day, University of Michigan players also raised their fists during the playing of the National Anthem.


Family source defends Brad Pitt as great parent

A source close to the family is defending the parenting skills of Brad Pitt.

Hollywood stars, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, are going through a high profile divorce just after their two year wedding anniversary. They had been together for 12 years and have six children together. Jolie filed for divorce and due to testimony there is now an investigation into Pitt for claims of child abuse.

“He is one of the best dads I have ever known, ” claimed a source in an interview with PEOPLE. The source is close to both Jolie and Pitt and has known their children for several years. “He’s very good at keeping things calm and telling them how they should be behaving, reminding them to be kind, to be respectful to each other. He has always been there for the kids.”

“He does care so much about the kids and he cares about them having structure and routine, but that is because he is wonderful dad,” continued the family source. “I have never heard him or seen him being pushy or hurting them, or being too tough with them, at all.”

Pitt has been accused of being “verbally abusive” and “physical” with their oldest child, Maddox. The incident in question occurred on a private plane owned by the couple, said another source to PEOPLE. The Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services launched an investigation into the incident after the abuse was reported last Wednesday.


Mystery of glowing space ‘blob’ may be solved

A number of humongous glowing space “blobs” have puzzled scientists for years, but now the source of their enigmatic glow may be revealed.

According to NPR, the space blob under recent study was first spotted in the late 1990s and appeared to be a gigantic cloud of glowing hydrogen gas.  Other such blobs were discovered, many around ten times as large as the Milky Way.

Astronomers dubbed the massive, bright objects “Lyman-alpha blobs,” after the wavelengths they emitted and with the use of the word “blob” as a touch of humor — “like the blob from outer space or something like that,” as Chuck Steidel of Caltech explained.

The primary mystery surrounding the huge objects was the fact that they glowed with no obvious light source.

In a new study, researchers took a deeper look into one of the largest blobs using the ALMA telescope in Chile.  There they were able to identify two large galaxies hidden within the enormous gas cloud.  The galaxies had been previously obscured from view due to the large amount of dust surrounding them.

The galaxies are creating new stars at a fast pace, each producing the equivalent of 100 suns every year.  The intense light generated by the galaxies is lighting up the surrounding gas.

The researchers equate the effect with the kind of light scattering that happens around a streetlight in foggy weather.

“You see a sort of halo around the streetlight because the light from the central streetlight is scattering off water droplets in the fog,” Jim Geach of the University of Hertfordshire said.  “It’s kind of analogous to what we’re seeing with these Lyman-alpha blobs.”

The discovery of the source of one blob’s light suggests that other such glowing space blobs are likely lit up by similar means.

“It’s too early to say that this is going to end up being typical, but it’s pretty interesting,” Steidel says. “It’s nice to see that one’s gut feeling turns out to be supported by something other than speculation.”

The study was published in The Astrophysical Journal.


Richard Sherman protests recent police shootings

Seattle Seahawks cornerback, Richard Sherman, decided not to take questions during a Wednesday press conference.

“I’m not going to answer any questions today, and it’s no offense to you guys, but I think the state of things in the world today is very interesting,” said Sherman.

Sherman, who is highly outspoken on issues of race in America, takes a Wednesday press conference weekly. During the most recent news conference, however, Sherman spoke but declined to answer any questions. According to Sherman, he was protesting the recent shootings of unarmed black men by police officers in Charlotte, North Carolina and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Sherman did, however, share his ideas on the current state of affairs and where he stood on athletes speaking on current social issues in America.

“I think you have players that are trying to take a stand and trying to be aware of social issues and try to make a stand and increase peoples’ awareness and put a spotlight on it, and they’re being ignored,” explained Sherman.
Whether they’re taking a knee or whether they’re locking arms, they’re trying to bring people together and unite them for a cause. I think the last couple days, a couple more guys have gotten shot and killed in the middle of the street. More videos have come out of guys getting killed, and I think people are still missing the point. The reason these guys are kneeling, the reason we’re locking arms is to bring people together, to make people aware that this is not right. It’s not right for people to get killed in the street.”