Feature

Text Size

Scientists Report an Odd Twist Near Milky Way Center
03.16.06
 
Double Helix Nebula Using observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers report an unprecedented elongated double helix nebula near the center of our Milky Way galaxy. The part of the nebula the astronomers observed stretches 80 light years in length. The research is published March 16 issue of the journal Nature.

Image left: Double Helix Nebula at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Click to download high resolution photo. Image credit: NASA.
+ Larger view

"We see two intertwining strands wrapped around each other as in a DNA molecule," said Mark Morris, UCLA professor of physics and astronomy, and lead author. "Nobody has ever seen anything like that before in the cosmic realm. Most nebulae are either spiral galaxies full of stars or formless amorphous conglomerations of dust and gas — space weather. "

The double helix nebula is approximately 300 light years from the enormous black hole at the center of the Milky Way. (The Earth is more than 25,000 light years from the black hole at the galactic center.)

Spitzer is an infrared telescope that is imaging the sky at unprecedented sensitivity and resolution, enabling it to see the double helix nebula clearly.