Jun 28, 2007

Cannibalism, cranks, and celestial stuff

The above quote is from Matthew Erwin's blogpost on one of three most pivotal discoveries of our time.

The Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy (Sag DEG) was discovered in 1994, replacing the Large Magellanic Cloud as the closest galaxy to ours. The Sagittarius DEG is currently circling the Milky Way in a dissolving loop. If we could see infrared, we would see our entire sky look like the Milky Way. In the years since Sag DEG was discovered, we have come to realize that it is actually being cannibalized by the Milky Way.

Matthew Erwin has used this information to come up with some theories for the following: Why our solar system is at a near 90 degree slant relative to the Milky, why the Mayan calendar ends in 2012, and why we are currently experiencing global warming. If we follow Erwin's theory, that right angle view is of someone else's galaxy, and we aren't being invaded, as APOD said in 1998. We are the invaders.

And this is Erwin's explanation for why the Mayan calendar ends in 2012:

This grand turning is also the root cause for the discontinuation of the Mayan calendar (the most accurate on the planet) because the 'read-point' of the Pleiades star cluster from Earth the calendar was based upon could no longer be a constant as we begin to steer away from the earlier chart-ably predictable movement.

I rather like that one. Far more cheering than hearing the world's going to end.

But why are we at a near 90 degree angle to our own Milky Way? One explanation is that [W]hen the Solar System was just a rotating, collapsing cloud of gas and dust, a passing star came close enough to change its axis of rotation.

Actually, there's nothing odd at all about our solar system being at an angle to the Milky Way, as the website Bad Astronomy points out as it debunks Erwin's theories.

(Hat tip to Tim for his post on the matter, and Sravana for reminding me of Bad Astronomy, a good place for lay people to get astronomy explained. And no, there's nothing weird about his blog post title. It is as relevant as mine.)


Sravana said...

I'm so glad you went to the trouble to look this up.
I couldn't bear the idea that we might not be part of the Milky Way... it's so prominent in the mythologies of the world, that the loss of that origin would be truly sad...

But that's not the case, so all the myths are still true! :::grin:::

Sravana said...

Follow up from Bad Astro:

Sravana said...

Also interesting - sorry for hogging your comment space - blogger is giving me the exact same verification code each time I comment. Weird.

Keera Ann Fox said...

Blogger glitching again? Gee, how unusual. ;-)

I'm not worried about the myths. Myths attempt to explain ancient historical events using symbolism or parables. Since the 1600's we've had an alternative way to explain our hidden past: Science. We shouldn't commit the same error the church did when it refused to acknowledge Galileo's discovery that the universe does not revolve around the Earth. Or the one that's happening now in the US with the quarreling about the Bible's creation myth (which is one of many) vs. the theory of evolution. I would hope that today's humans can survive learning something new about our existence in the universe without going apeshit (pun intended).

The follow-up article corrects some errors in the original debunking article. Thanks for the link.