Feeds

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

Quite a fashionable neighbourhood, new star map suggests

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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.) ®

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.