Sci­en­tists get a warped view of the Milky Way

Whanganui Chronicle - - World - Na­ture As­tron­omy.

It turns out our Milky Way galaxy is truly warped, at least around the far edges.

Sci­en­tists in China and Aus­tralia have re­leased an up­dated 3D map of the Milky Way. They used 1339 pul­sat­ing stars — young, newly cat­a­logued stars big­ger and brighter than our sun — to map the galaxy’s shape.

The far­ther from the cen­tre, the more warp­ing, or twist­ing, there is in the Milky Way’s outer hy­dro­gen gas disc.

Re­searchers say the warped, spi­ral pat­tern is likely caused by the spin­ning force of the mas­sive in­ner disc of stars.

“We usu­ally think of spi­ral gal­ax­ies as be­ing quite flat, like An­dromeda, which you can eas­ily see through a tele­scope,” Mac­quarie Univer­sity’s Richard de Grijs, who took part in the study, said from Syd­ney.

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 — known as clas­si­cal Cepheids — pro­vided sub­stan­tial mea­sur­ing ac­cu­racy.

At least a dozen other gal­ax­ies ap­pear to have warped edges in a sim­i­lar spi­ral pat­tern, so in that re­spect we’re hardly unique.

The study ap­pears in the jour­nal

Photo / AP

An artist's im­pres­sion from Chi­nese Academy of Sciences shows the Milky Way with its warped edges.

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