Feeds

Hitchhikers' Guide was WRONG, Earth is not in a galactic backwater

Quite a fashionable neighbourhood, new star map suggests

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

As just about any regular Reg reader knows, the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy states authoritatively that this planet Earth lies "far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy". However, it appears that in this case the Guide is probably wrong.

We learn this from new research carried out by astronomers who have been probing the heavens with the aid of the mighty five-thousand-miles-wide Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) radio-scope.

An announcement from the US National Radio Astronomy Observatory, highlighting the new boffinry, has this to say:

Our Solar System's Milky Way neighborhood just went upscale. We reside between two major spiral arms of our home galaxy, in a structure called the Local Arm. New research using the ultra-sharp radio vision of the National Science Foundation's Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) indicates that the Local Arm, previously thought to be only a small spur, instead is much more like the adjacent major arms, and is likely a significant branch of one of them.

Far from an unfashionable backwater, then, it would seem that our local stellar neighbourhood is in fact a comparatively desirable and bustling bit of galactic real estate.

"The Local Arm should appear as a prominent feature of the Milky Way," contends enthusiastic galactic estate agent Alberto Sanna, of the Max-Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy.

"The Local Arm is not a spur. It is a major structure, maybe a branch of the Perseus Arm, or possibly an independent arm segment," he adds.

Sanna and his colleagues found this out by using the VLBA to obtain ranges to naturally occurring microwave-laser (maser) energy emissions beaming out of faraway clouds of water and alcohol. Such localities are where hot young stars are to be found, an unfailing indicator of trendiness in galactic neighbourhood terms.

Earth's 'hood, according to Sanna and his fellow astronomers' results as interpreted by the NRAO outreach staff, deserves "more respect" than it has received thus far.

Though perhaps not enough even so to prevent our planet being demolished, ostensibly in order to make way for a hyperspace bypass (but actually in order to safeguard the psychiatric industry by preventing the planet - in fact a vast supercomputer controlled by mice - from finding out the Ultimate Question of the universe, the answer to which is, of course, 42.) ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.