Things We Learnt From Stargazing Live: The Milky Way

Proudly supported by

  Last updated April 21, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Topics:  

Julia Zemiro and Brian Cox hosted the first episode of Stargazing Live, a three-night live program all about the universe. This first episode was all about our home galaxy, the Milky Way.


Let’s look at some of the highlights.


Australia has a unique view of the Milky Way


When we look at the Milky Way we’re looking at something pretty remarkable – we’re looking at a galaxy, from within it. And in Australia, we look directly into the heart of it from a distance of 26,000 light years.


100-200 billion stars make up our galaxy, and a good number of those are thought to have planets orbiting.


While we don’t know exactly what the Milky Way looks like as we’ve never seen it from the outside, we can make some assumptions based on other galaxies, such as our nearest neighbour the Andromeda Galaxy. It too is a spiral galaxy with a central glowing core, but is much larger – at least twice the number of stars (or possibly even more – up to a trillion).


Based on that the show created this fairy light representation (we all secretly want one at home) of what the Milky Way could look like from outside.




We learnt that the reason we can look into the heart of the Milky Way, when the northern hemisphere cannot, is due to the tilt of the Earth in respect to the galaxy. Earth is slightly askew compared to the plane of the galaxy, meaning the southern hemisphere is tilted towards the centre of the galaxy, and the northern hemisphere away, meaning they will never see the same sky as us.


At the centre of our galaxy is a supermassive black hole


Supermassive black holes lie at the hearts of galaxies, including our own. We know this by watching a cluster of stars orbit the centre of our universe. Their orbits revealed they were passing around something very small and incredibly dense with a mass about 4 million times that of our sun – a black hole. The trouble is we can’t see it.


Our supermassive black hole is also a bit weird in that it doesn’t seem to have any of the radiation spewing from it that we see from other black holes. This radiation is normally caused by dust and gas falling into the hole and being “eaten”. The lack of radiation would suggest that’s not happening at our galactic centre, meaning our black hole is quite dormant and peaceful.


But what would happen if something did fall into the hole? We thought we’d get the chance to watch in 2011 as a gas cloud approached the black hole, however in a galactic-sized let down, the cloud sailed straight past apparently unaffected. NASA scientists continued observing the black hole anyway, using the Chandra X-Ray telescope, and 2 months after the predicted collision, they saw two bright bursts of radiation. Astronomers still aren’t sure whether the bursts were linked to the gas cloud or were something else.


Luckily, next year astronomers get to do it all again as a star is currently orbiting the black hole. As the two begin to interact we may find out things we never expected.



6 million years ago our super massive black hole had quite an appetite


Dr Lisa Harvey-Smith studies black holes and explained that millions of years ago the supermassive black hole in the centre of the Milky Way ate 100,000 suns. After its mega meal, it essentially burped out giant bubbles which still exist around the centre of the Milky Way.




Indigenous star stories tell the same stories as modern astronomy, but differently


If you ever get the chance to listen to Indigenous star stories, do it because they’re absolutely fascinating. On Stargazing Live we heard from Elder Ghillar Michael Anderson of the Euahlayi people in NSW as he told the story of the emu in the sky.


The Milky Way, or Wurrum-Boorrool, is a river of stars through the sky, spilling out at the Coal Sack Nebula, or the head of the emu named Garwaar-ghoo. The emu is a sacred spirit visible in the sky from April to August, and when it leaves the sky it comes and travels on the Earth either in the water as a water spirit, or on land as the black emu.


Indigenous Australians might be the world’s first astronomers, having looked at and studied the sky for tens of thousands of years. They also use the sky to describe how people came to Earth, and their stories are fascinating interpretations of what they have observed.


One of the brightest stars in the sky, Alpha Centauri, is a triple star system


When we look at the brightest stars in our sky with a naked eye we only see two sunlight stars, Alpha and Beta Centauri, but there is also third called Proxima Centauri. And just recently it was found that there is a planet orbiting this third red dwarf star called Proxima b.


If you were to visit (taking 20 years using an untested experimental spacecraft) things might be a little dull. The light on Proxima b would be only 2/3 as bright as the light on Earth thanks to its dim red dwarf star. However, with the amount of radiation there could be intense auroras, which would be quite the sight! For now, it’s still unknown if it has water or an atmosphere habitable for humans.



  • RELATED VIDEO: Brew Ha Ha – Proxima b, back in August 2016, when Proxima b was discovered, we took a closer look at our new neighbour.


You can use the stars to find south


Greg Quicke (more on this legend below) showed us how to triangulate between the two brightest stars in the sky (Alpha and Beta Centauri, at the bottom of the image) and the Southern Cross (at the top). The point where they meet is south.




You can help find a new planet!


The mysterious and as yet unseen Planet 9 of our solar system is being hunted, and you could take part.


Using data from the Keppler telescope, citizen scientists can search data looking for changes in light from stars. If you find a dip in light coming from stars it could suggest a planet transiting in front of the star and blocking light. If you find dips that no one has found before you may have found a brand new exoplanet.


To take part, head to Exoplanetexplorers.org


There is also a similar Australian project run by the Australian National University searching for Planet 9, which has the backing of our own Nobel Laureate Brian Schmidt. Using data from the Skymapper telescope, we can search images and identify the tell tale signatures of planets. To take part, check out planet9search.org


Space Gandalf is amazing


Last week the UK went crazy over a uniquely Australian astronomer named Greg Quicke, and this week it was his own country’s turn. From Broome, Greg has spent a large amount of his life in a swag in the Kimberleys watching the stars, which he describes as old friends. He probably has also spent years observing the sky from Middle Earth.


He showed us how the sky we see is the other way up compared to the northern hemisphere, but he likes to claim we look at it the right way up.


Greg will be a regular contributor to Stargazing Live, which is great as we get to gaze upon his stellar beard. He’s the astronomy teacher you always wish you had, you can’t help but get wrapped up in his excitement about what he sees. Plus watching that beard in the wind is a sight to behold.



Catch up on the highlights from the second episode “Planets” HERE , and the third episode “Aliens” HERE


Images from the ABC


Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get all the latest science.




About the Author

Ben Lewis
Ben Lewis is the Editor of Australia’s Science Channel, and a contributor to Cosmos Magazine. He has worked with scientists and science storytellers including Brian Cox, Chris Hadfield, Robert Llewellyn, astronauts, elite athletes, Antarctic explorers, chefs and comedians. Ben has also been involved in public events around Australia and was co-writer, producer and director of The Science of Doctor Who, which toured nationally in 2014 in association with BBC Worldwide Australia & New Zealand. Want more Ben? You can hear him on ABC and commercial radio in Adelaide, regional SA, across NSW, and the ACT. He also speaks at universities around Australia on communicating science to the public. Around the office he makes the worst jokes known to mankind.

Published By

Science and technology is as much a part of our cultural fabric as art, music, theatre and literature. They play a significant role in our daily lives, yet, in a world dependent on science, we often take them for granted. Australia’s Science Channel believes every citizen has a right, and a responsibility, to be informed, and our mission is to create programs to bring that about.


Featured Videos

Placeholder
Bringing Japan's breakthrough cancer technology to Australia
Placeholder
Columbia: NASA blew it
Placeholder
The Face of a Stranger
Placeholder
Where Does Space Begin?
Placeholder
The Rarest Drug on Earth
Placeholder
Why is blue so rare in nature
Placeholder
Ant Sisters
Placeholder
Jeremy the Lefty Snail and Other Asymmetrical Animals
Placeholder
Tracking Snow
Placeholder
Smart Slime?
Placeholder
Good in the machine
Placeholder
Kessler Syndrome: What happens when satellites collide?
Placeholder
Why This Skateboarding Trick Should Be Impossible
Placeholder
Charles Camarda on becoming an astronaut
Placeholder
Alan Duffy on what it took to get humans to the Moon
Placeholder
Do aliens exist? Brian Cox explains
Placeholder
From Apollo to Pulsars: Parkes still dishing out the discoveries
Placeholder
Brian Cox on black holes
Placeholder
Australia's 60,000 years of space history
Placeholder
In Class With… Jane Goodall
Placeholder
Etienne Rastoin-Laplane - What's fishy about the Galapagos?
Placeholder
Kit Prendergast - Flowers to keep native bees buzzing
Placeholder
Rebecca Wellard - Eavesdropping on killer whales
Placeholder
Hossein Tavassoli - Mending broken hearts
Placeholder
Dilan Seckiner - Forensic gait analysis
Placeholder
Samuel Bladwell - A new spin on electronics
Placeholder
Sathana Dushyanthen - The double-edged cancer sword
Placeholder
Dwan Price - Nuts and Guts
Placeholder
Catriona Nguyen-Robertson - Exercise takes your immune system for a ride
Placeholder
Thimo Ruethers - The deadly danger of crocs on a plate
Placeholder
Amanda Tauber - Slamming the brakes on metastatic cancer
Placeholder
Hayley Teasdale – The ball that prevents falls (FameLab Australia 2019 Runner-up)
Placeholder
In the Shadow of a Black Hole
Placeholder
In Class With... Monica Gagliano
Placeholder
In Class With... Brian Cox
Placeholder
Start your FameLab 2019 journey now
Placeholder
Nural Cokcetin - It all starts with FameLab
Placeholder
Erinn Fagan-Jeffries - It all starts with FameLab
Placeholder
Ronald Yu - It all starts with FameLab
Placeholder
Noushin Nasiri - It all starts with FameLab
Placeholder
Grassroots
Placeholder
What is machine learning?
Placeholder
Mythbusting artificial intelligence with expert Anton van den Hengel
Placeholder
Using machine learning to predict medical outcomes
Placeholder
KCLOC
Placeholder
Nature Calls
Placeholder
Mexican Fishing Bats
Placeholder
Bittersweet
Placeholder
Timelapse
Placeholder
Invisible Blanket
Placeholder
Look
Placeholder
The Anomalies: Venom Race
Placeholder
Science Meets Making
Placeholder
Spiral
Placeholder
Looking Out There
Placeholder
Protectors of the Penguins
Placeholder
Astroturf
Placeholder
Virtual Humans
Placeholder
Rancheros del Jaguar
Placeholder
Searching For Dark Matter
Placeholder
Finding prehistoric mega-shark fossils on Victoria's coast
Placeholder
The Grandfather of computers
Placeholder
James Cameron talks science
Placeholder
In Class With.....David Suzuki - The Environment
Placeholder
In Class With.....David Suzuki - Career
Placeholder
Sustainable water use with Doug Green
Placeholder
Why is Indigenous science important?
Placeholder
Vanessa Pirotta - Using drones to collect whale snot (FameLab Australia 2018 Winner)
Placeholder
Toby Hendy - Poking Plants (FameLab Australia 2018 Runner-Up)
Placeholder
Muthu Vignesh Vellayappan - Groovy Patches (FameLab Australia 2018 Audience Choice)
Placeholder
Taryn Laubenstein - The Tail of Two Fishes
Placeholder
Richard Charlesworth - Coeliac disease diagnosis can be a pain in the posterior
Placeholder
Pegah Maasoumi - Solar Windows
Placeholder
James Wong - Breathing while you hop: How do kangaroos do it?
Placeholder
Ben McAllister - The ORGAN Experiment: Shining a light on dark matter
Placeholder
Mortaza Rezae - Empowering beautiful minds
Placeholder
Zane Stromberga - Can allergy drugs beat bladder disease?
Placeholder
Working In.....Art - Astrophotography
Placeholder
What's the best way to move - springs or muscles?
Placeholder
FameLab Australia Semi-Final Highlights
Placeholder
Saving lives with platypus milk
Placeholder
Australian astronomers witness death throes of a cocooned star
Placeholder
How Australia's politicians see our future in space
Placeholder
Keeping satellites in the loop
Placeholder
Tim Flannery talks about COP
Placeholder
Tim Jarvis & Tim Flannery talk Climate Change
Placeholder
Andy's Week in Science - robo baby, university rankings, and cancer on circadian rhythms
Placeholder
From chocolate factory to surgery - the milliDelta robot
Placeholder
Andy's Week in Science: video games, low tech transition windows and a new CRISPR technique
Placeholder
Science lessons useful in Art Restoration career
Placeholder
Are drones the future of racing?
Placeholder
The future of esports according to the experts
Placeholder
Seeing is believing with artist Eugenie Lee
Placeholder
The human impact of Art Science collaboration
Placeholder
Follow your Interests in Robotics
Placeholder
Zoz on 3D Printing
Placeholder
Flavia Tata Nardini on women in engineering
Placeholder
Flavia Tata Nardini on the future of the internet
Placeholder
Explore the ocean floor and Antarctic biodiversity
Placeholder
Follow your interests in Medical Research
Placeholder
Artists on Science
Placeholder
What is Space Archaeology?
Placeholder
Follow your Interests
Placeholder
Scientists on Art
Placeholder
3D Printing in Medical Research
Placeholder
Ethical Issues
Placeholder
Problem Solving - Robotics at Dermatec
Placeholder
Problem Solving with CSI
Placeholder
Tamarah King - Earthquake Geologist
Placeholder
True or False with Bajo and Rad BONUS ROUND
Placeholder
True or False with Bajo & Rad
Placeholder
Andy's Week in Science - Cats vs Dogs
Placeholder
FameLab 2018 - Get Involved!
Placeholder
Nural Cokcetin - How FameLab changed my life
Placeholder
Erinn Fagan-Jeffries - How FameLab changed my life
Placeholder
Noushin Nasiri - How FameLab changed my life
Placeholder
Ronald Yu - How FameLab changed my life
Placeholder
Alan Duffy's Top 5 Science Communication Tips
Placeholder
A Judge's Top Tips for FameLab Australia
Placeholder
Brain Candy - Why, Why, Why Michael Stevens?
Placeholder
The Past, Present, and Future of Malaria
Placeholder
This is a video of poo pills being made!
Placeholder
Mind Games - Sports Psychology
Placeholder
Fuel to Win - Sports Nutrition
Placeholder
Fifty years since Australia beat the world to space
Placeholder
ECR Network: Talk Your Science with Alan Duffy
Placeholder
Andy's Week in Science - chimps, klompen, and clouds
Placeholder
Our robot medicine future - heart huggers and micro biohybrids
Placeholder
Six Awkward Cancer Questions
Placeholder
How do you tell if a whale is left-handed?
Placeholder
She Flies - Turning Girls into Drone Pilots
Placeholder
Andy's Week in Science - Magnetic Fabric, Cancer Treatments, and Echolocation
Placeholder
The Science of Sexuality
Placeholder
Sailing Through Space with Bill Nye
Placeholder
Using Sports Science to Help Olympic Athletes
Placeholder
Three and a Half Minutes of Top Shelf Career Advice
Placeholder
New Space Tech with Andrea Boyd
Placeholder
Kelly Meets the Mars Curiosity Rover
Placeholder
Hearts, Opera, and Tough Conversations - Andy's Week in Science
Placeholder
Bill Nye on Science, Girls, and Saving the World!
Placeholder
2017 Prime Minister's Prizes for Science Part 2
Placeholder
2017 Prime Minister's Prizes for Science Part 1
Placeholder
Who Decides the Law in Space?
Placeholder
Scientists Watch Collision That Created Gravitational Waves
Placeholder
Getting Cold Feet Leads to a Whole New Career
Placeholder
ECR Network - Why Every Scientist Should Be on Twitter - The Benefits
Placeholder
ECR Network - Why Every Scientist Should Be On Twitter - The Fears
Placeholder
Live Podcast - Life Vs Science
Placeholder
Origami Robots, Babies, and Kidneys - Andy's Week in Science
Placeholder
Namira Salim and the Zero-G Peace Summit
Placeholder
Elon Musk's Mars Plan: Expert Analysis
Placeholder
SPACE AF - Thursday
Placeholder
My Time in Space
Placeholder
IAC TV Daily Broadcast - Wednesday
Placeholder
SPACE AF - Wednesday
Placeholder
IAC TV Daily broadcast - Tuesday
Placeholder
SPACE AF - Tuesday
Placeholder
IAC TV daily broadcast - Monday
01:00:41
Placeholder
SPACE AF - Monday
Placeholder
Live from IAC 2017
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Technology Rewrites History
Placeholder
Methamphetamine - Gateway Drug to Parkinson's Disease
Placeholder
Concussion, 3D BioPrinting, and The Universe - Andy's Week in Science
Placeholder
Pulsars, Clearwigs, and Pacemakers - Andy's Week in Science
Placeholder
Revolutions - The Quest to Transform HPV Racing
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Hurricane Irma Blows Away Tesla's Rip Off
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - The Limit of Your Lifespan
Placeholder
The Recipient
Placeholder
Think Like a Scientist: Natural Selection in an Outbreak
Placeholder
The End of Snow
Placeholder
The Next Rembrandt
Placeholder
The Discarded
Placeholder
The Spectators
Placeholder
Test Tube Babes
Placeholder
Pangolins in Peril- A Story of Rare Scales
Placeholder
Rock Art Project
Placeholder
Pork.0
Placeholder
OWSIA (Darkened Water)
Placeholder
Nex
Placeholder
Northern Quolls
Placeholder
Dish Life
Placeholder
At Street Level
Placeholder
Custom Love
Placeholder
Adrift
Placeholder
A Story from Space
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - The Most Dangerous Thing in Boxing May Be the Gloves
Placeholder
ECR Network 2017 – Get Interdisciplinary!
01:27:00
Placeholder
Chris Hadfield: The Future of Space Exploration
Placeholder
Chris Hadfield: Life After Space
Placeholder
Chris Hadfield: Life in Space
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Let's Make Algae Australian of the Year
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Australia's Energy Showdown
Placeholder
Nine Awkward Astrophysicist Questions
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - There's No Such Thing as an Exercise Pill
Placeholder
National Science Week Awards Show
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Your 5 Step Asteroid Success Plan
Placeholder
National Science Week Forecast
Placeholder
Open Doors. Open Future. Open Day.
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Lose a Little to Gain Millions
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Crowd Sourcing Origami Astronaut Protection
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - T-Rex's Prehistoric Power Walk
Placeholder
True or False with Kale Brock
Placeholder
The Grandfather Paradox
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - The Hidden Heroes Tackling Mozzies
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Emergency AI Assistance
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Frogs Forever, Dinosaurs Never!
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Australia, Let's Go To Space
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Welcome to the Microbiome, Archaea!
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Roos Blindside Driverless Cars
Placeholder
Biodiversity of Antarctica Under Threat From Increase In Ice-Free Areas
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - The Future of the Census
Placeholder
Tell Me! Brian Cox
Placeholder
Crash, Burn, Tweak, Repeat
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Humans Just Got Older and Wiser
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Cheers to Brain Health?
Placeholder
Gene Therapy Could Cure Allergies
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - iHeart Hacking
Placeholder
Ridiculology - New Hubble
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Trees Alone Can't Save Us
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Earth's Accidental Force Field
Placeholder
Dinosaurs on the Big Screen
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Farewell MP3
Placeholder
Kids Beat Grown-ups on Pneumonia Vaccines
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - The Booger Conspiracy
Placeholder
FameLab 2017 National Final - Part 2
Placeholder
FameLab 2017 National Final - Part 1
Placeholder
2017 Budget Response
Placeholder
What Are Animal Weapons?
Placeholder
If You Love Both Art and Science, Be a Scientific Illustrator
Placeholder
Getting Personal With Skinks
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - CSIRO Email Leaks
Placeholder
FameLab 2017 Western Australia Semi-Final Highlights
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - New Hope for Premmies
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Britain Goes Coal-Free
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Naked Mole-Rats (SFW)
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Easter Reminders
Placeholder
Meet Andrea Boyd - Space Flight Controller
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Sperm Drug Smugglers
Placeholder
FameLab 2017 New South Wales Semi-Final Highlights
Placeholder
The Science of Fiction
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Liquorice Poisoning
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Crowdsourcing Science
Placeholder
FameLab 2017 Queensland Semi-Final Highlights
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - SpaceX Preps for Relaunch
Placeholder
Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome Breakthrough
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - Surviving a Media Storm
Placeholder
Will This Aussie Team Win the Race to Create the Ultimate Malaria Vaccine?
Placeholder
Brew Ha Ha - New Dino Family Tree
Placeholder
How to fix things with Kyle Wiens
Placeholder
Repair or replace? iFixit co-founder Kyle Wiens