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Milky Way's True Colors Revealed

 
 
 
 
 
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Astronomers at the University of Pittsburgh say they have determined the exact color of the Milky Way Galaxy as it is seen from other far away galaxies.

Findings indicate that the Milky Way is redder than most spiral galaxies but when combined with its blue arms its overall color is white.

“The best description I can give would be that if you looked at new spring snow, which has a fine grain size, about an hour after dawn or an hour before sunset, you’d see the same spectrum of light that an alien astronomer in another galaxy would see looking at the Milky Way,” Jeffrey Newman told the state-funded BBC.

In order to do the research scientists combined data from about 1,000 galaxies that have a similar number of stars and similar star birthrates as the Milky Way.

“For astronomers, one of the most important parameters is actually the color of the galaxy,” Newman added.

“That tells us basically how old the stars in the galaxy are, how recently it’s been forming stars – are they forming today or did its stars form billions and billions of years ago?”

Scientists believe the new data would help them find out more about the structure and the evolutionary state of the galaxy.

“It appears our Milky Way is on the road between those two stages – based on the color we find, the rate of formation of stars has been declining over time,” Prof. Newman said.

The findings were announced at the 219th American Astronomical Society meeting, held on January 11, 2012.

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