Milky Way Galaxy Is ''Warped, Twisted'' Not Flat

07 February, 2019, 15:57 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • The Milky Way Is Totally Twisted

Because they are so bright, Cepheids can be clearly seen millions of light years away and can be easily distinguished from other bright stars in their vicinity, making them indispensable tools in any astronomers' kit.

The paper, published in Nature Astronomy on February 4, details work by Australian and Chinese astronomers to examine the classical "Cepheids" - a collection of huge, young stars in the Milky Way that can be up to 100,000 times brighter than the sun. They also pulsate radially for days to months at a time - and this period of pulsation can be combined with the Cepheid's brightness to reliably establish its distance from the sun.

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.

Previously, astronomers saw evidence of hydrogen clouds becoming warped in the Milky Way.

It was only in recent centuries that it became an established scientific fact that Earth orbits the sun, and later that the solar system - along with hundreds of billions of other stars - orbits a common galactic center. According to Chao Liu, a study co-author and researcher at the National Astronomical Observatories, the warping seems to be caused by torque induced by the rotation of the inner disk of the galaxy.

"We used a new catalog of infrared observations obtained with the WISE space observatory to reduce the effects of dust and determine the distances to our Cepheids with uncertainties of less than 3 to 5 percent - that's an unprecedented accuracy to date", stated Richard de Grijs, an astrophysicist from Macquarie University and an author of the paper.

An artist's impression of the warped and twisted Milky Way disk.


"It is notoriously hard to determine distances from the Sun to parts of the Milky Way's outer gas disc without having a clear idea of what that disc actually looks like", says Xiaodian Chen, lead author, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

"This offers new insights into the formation of our home Galaxy".

The new map, produced by astronomers from Macquarie University in Australia and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, shows that the warped Milky Way disk also contains young stars.

The study appears in the journal Nature Astronomy. Instead of lying in a flat plane, the galaxy takes on a bit of a twisted "S" shape. But as you move toward the outermost reaches of the galaxy, the gravitational glue of the centre fades.

This finding allowed for an updated map of the galaxy's "stellar motions", says Dr. Deng Licai, senior researcher at NAOC.

"Perhaps more importantly, in the Milky Way's outer regions, we found that the S-like stellar disk is warped in a progressively twisted spiral pattern". So our Milky Way's twists are rare but not unique.

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