Science

The Milky Way really is warped - like a bent old vinyl record

The Milky Way really is warped - like a bent old vinyl record”

Using these pulses in brightness, scientists can detect the distance of these stars within 3 percent to 5 percent accuracy, study lead author Xiaodian Chen, a researcher at the National Astronomical Observatories, said in the statement. Such stars are hot and massive - five to twenty times the mass of our sun and up to 100,000 times as bright.

The light of these short-lived stars changes regularly, in day- to month-long cycles.

Now, scientists came up with the most accurate 3D map of our galaxy, and it seems that Milky Way is "warped and twisted", and it's nothing like we've imagined until now.

Though past analysis has established that the hydrogen gas in our galaxy takes on a warped shape, questions have remained as to whether stars follow the same shape or not.

There are several hundred billion stars in our Milky Way Galaxy.

Combining their new results with those other observations, the researchers concluded that the Milky Way's warped spiral pattern is most likely caused by "torques"-or rotational forcing-by the massive inner disk". You can see their final plot in the video below, published in Nature Astronomy.

Lead researcher Xiaodian Chen of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing said it's hard to determine distances from the sun to the Milky Way's fringes, "without having a clear idea of what that disc actually looks like". That offers new insights into the formation of our home galaxy.

Scientists have known since the 1950s that the spiral-shaped Milky Way's disk is warped, bending by thousands of light-years at its outskirts.

From afar, the Milky Way appears like a thin rotating disk of stars, orbiting the centre every few hundred million years.

This undated image provided by Chinese Academy of Sciences shows the Artist's impression of the Milky Way.

"We usually think of spiral galaxies as being quite flat, like Andromeda which you can easily see through a telescope", says Professor Richard de Grijs from the Macquarie University, but that's not the reality with Milky Way. Since a Cepheid's period tells astronomers how bright the star truly is, measuring how bright it appears lets astronomers draw an accurate distance map.

This reminded the team of earlier observations of a dozen other galaxies which also showed such progressively twisted spiral patterns.

This is the mysterious invisible material that provides the gravitational "glue" that holds galaxies together.

"This new finding may help us to know the shape of the Milky Way, and provide a key clue to understanding how galaxies such as the Milky Way form and evolve", said Deng Licai, co-author of the study.

"We found that the S-like stellar disk is warped in a progressively twisted spiral pattern", de Grijs said.



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