Philosophical Society of Washington

Deconstructing the Milky Way

Henry T. Freudenreich
NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center

2111th Meeting Abstract
Friday, December 10, 1999 at 8:15 PM


While we can clearly observe galaxies tens or even hundreds of millions of lightyears away, the greater portion of our own Milky Way is obscured by a fog of interstellar dust. Recently astronomers have begun to penetrate this fog by means of space-based telescopes sensitive to longer wavelengths of light. One such, the Diffuse Background Experiment (DIRBE), created the first complete pictures of the Milky Way as seen at 10 different infrared wavelengths. Among its findings: the base-plane of our galaxy is warped, and its center is occupied by a cigar-shaped bar 20,000 lightyears in length. These and other results will be discussed.

About the Author:

Henry Freudenreich received a B.A. in physics from New York University in 1978 and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Maryland in 1986. His thesis research was in high-energy cosmic rays. He joined the Diffuse Infrared Background Experiment (DIRBE) team of the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite project in 1986 and remained there until the end of the project in September 1997. During that period he worked (and still works) for a company that has gone through several name changes and been gobbled up twice and is now known as Raytheon ITSS. His work on DIRBE spanned a broad range of topics, but gradually came to focus in on galactic astronomy. Since October 1997 he has been in geophysics, studying electric fields in the Earth's ionosphere.

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