Our home galaxy, the Milky Way, is “warped and twisted,” a new study says.
In the study, scientists also released a new map of the galaxy, one that they say “is the first accurate 3D map of the Milky Way” that reveals its true shape.
“We usually think of spiral galaxies as being quite flat, like Andromeda, which you can easily see through a telescope,” said study co-author Richard de Grijs, an astronomer from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.
However, in this study, astronomers said the Milky Way’s disc of stars becomes increasingly warped and twisted the further away the stars are from the galaxy’s center.
The map includes over 1.300 large pulsating stars, each of which are up to 100,000 brighter than our sun.
Lead researcher Xiaodian Chen of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing said it’s difficult to determine distances from the sun to the Milky Way’s fringes, “without having a clear idea of what that disc actually looks like.” The stars on which his team’s map is based provided substantial measuring accuracy.
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Astronomers have also spotted a dozen other galaxies that showed twisted spiral patterns in their outer regions; thus. our Milky Way’s twists are rare but not unique.
The study was published Monday in Nature Astronomy, a peer-reviewed British journal.
Contributing: The Associated Press