21 February 2008

Over time, we all get a little thicker around the middle

For many of us, a Milky Way here and there contributes to midsection growth; it's not often, though, that the Milky Way itself finds its girth doubled in size. Via Slashdot, the University of Sydney reports:
Astrophysicist Professor Bryan Gaensler led a team that has found that our galaxy - a flattened spiral about 100,000 light years across - is 12,000 light years thick, not the 6,000 light years that had been previously thought.

Proving not all science requires big, expensive apparatus, Professor Gaensler and colleagues, Dr Greg Madsen, Dr Shami Chatterjee and PhD student Ann Mao, downloaded data from the internet and analysed it in a spreadsheet.

"We were tossing around ideas about the size of the Galaxy, and thought we had better check the standard numbers that everyone uses. It took us just a few hours to calculate this for ourselves. We thought we had to be wrong, so we checked and rechecked and couldn't find any mistakes."

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