“Using the pulsars we observe across the Milky Way galaxy, we are trying to be like a spider sitting in stillness in the middle of her web,” says Vanderbilt’s Stephen Taylor, assistant professor of physics and astronomy and former astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) about the location of absolute stillness in our solar system, the center of gravity with which to measure the gravitational waves that signal the existence of the invisible paradoxes we call black holes, which have no memory, and contain the earliest memories of the universe.
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In 2019 the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz for pioneering a new field in astronomy with the discovery of the first planet beyond our solar system, 51 Pegasi b. Since the discovery in 1991, over 4,000 exoplanets have been found in our home galaxy. “We answered a very old question,” Mayor said, which was debated by philosophers since the ancient Greeks: “are there other worlds in the Universe?”
So far, we have had only close calls from gamma ray explosions so large, scientists have suggested, that if they occurred within our solar neighborhood (less than 1,000 light years) they could potentially trigger mass extinctions on Earth.
In 1999 astronomers focusing on a star at the center of the Milky Way, measured precisely how long it takes the sun to complete one orbit (a galactic year) of our home galaxy: 226 million years, bobbing our fraught journey through the disc of the Milky Way, drifting through ghostly spiral arms and the darkness of dense nebulae, keeping a constant 30,000 light years between Earth and the violent galactic core. The last time the sun was at that exact spot of its galactic orbit, Tyrannosaurus rex ruled the Earth.
An enormous ‘ghost’ galaxy, believed to be one of the oldest in the universe, was detected lurking on the outskirts of the Milky Way in November of 2018 by a team of astronomers who discovered the massive object when trawling through new data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite. The object, named Antlia 2 , avoided detection thanks to its extremely low density as well as a perfect hiding place in the Zone of Avoidance, named by Edwin Hubble in 1929, behind the shroud of the Milky Way’s disc–a region full of dust and an overabundance of bright stars near the galactic center.