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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Astronomy students discover galaxy behind Milky Way disk

A group of UW-Madison astronomers used the largest radio telescope in the world this semester to discover a small galaxy behind the disk of the Milky Way. 


Snezana Stanimirovic, a UW-Madison assistant astronomy professor, conducted the study of the galaxy in a class titled Experiencing Astronomical Observations"" with six UW-Madison students: Nick Ballering, Lucas Hunt, Ryan Birdsall, Adam Beardsley, Lars Bryan and Andrew Wilson.  


Stanimirovic said the students based their study off a published paper, which suggested that the newly discovered galaxies behind the Milky Way are visible to infrared observations. 


""The most rewarding part of the project was seeing [the students] getting an idea of how the scientific process works. They got the idea, obtained observations and conducted data processing,"" she said.  


The students studied one particular galaxy and measured its velocity, distance from Earth, rate at which it spins and hydrogen content. They determined the galaxy moves at a rotational speed of 70 kilometers per second. 


According to Stanimirovic, the dust and gas surrounding the Milky Way disk usually makes it difficult to observe galaxies in what is known as the Zone of Avoidance. The telescope, which lies in the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, helped the students get a clearer view of the galaxy.  


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""[Directors of the observatory] were really very nice in getting us a little bit of observing time to get some educational experience for the course,"" Stanimirovic said.  


Participants conducted the observations by logging onto the telescope's server from a computer on campus.  


Stanimirovic said the researchers plan to write a paper on their results but need more observation time to confirm the measurements before publishing them.  


""They are very important observations,"" she said. ""[The results] will be very useful for scientists studying galaxies in the Zone of Avoidance.""  


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