Milky Way is warped and twisted, not flat

Milky Way is warped and twisted, not flat

Looking at the Cepheids over time you can see the stars pulse, sometimes dipping or increasing in brightness.

Burning their fuel quickly, those pulsating stars that live fast and die young are 100,000 times brighter than the Sun.

He likened determining the real shape of the Milky Way to standing in his garden trying to work out what Australia looks like. But, for the past 50 years there have been indications that the hydrogen clouds in the Milky Way are warped.

Like any galaxy, our home in outer space is made up of a collection of stars, planets, dark matter and other space junk. "This offers new insights into the formation of our home galaxy", said Richard de Grijs, a professor at Macquarie University.

The research team showed, with the help of the Cepheids, how the Milky Way isn't a flat cosmic disk shaped like a lipless frisbee or a pancake, but instead it's markedly warped into an S-like shape.

A team of astronomers from the Macquarie University in Australia and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have mapped out the Milky Way using 1,339 "standard stars".

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The billions of star and galactic bodies that make up a galaxy rotate around its center, making a complete orbit once every few hundred million years, according to Eureka Alert.

"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", said Xiaodian Chen from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. Combined with a Cepheid's observed brightness, its pulsation period can be used to obtain a highly accurate distance. You can see their final plot in the video below, published in Nature Astronomy.

The Milky Way galaxy's new shape has a twist - exaggerated here for effect.

From the 3D distribution map, researchers found that the new derived stellar disc is warped in a progressively twisted spiral pattern, with an S-shape. They have found that the Milky Way is not exactly as artist's impressions might have you believe - it's actually twisted and warped, bending at the edges.

"So the massive inner disk's rotational force causes the outer disk to warp, the researchers concluded."This research provides a crucial updated map for studies of our galaxy's stellar motions and the origins of the Milky Way's disk", said Licai Deng, co-author and senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in a statement". But as you move toward the outermost reaches of the galaxy, the gravitational glue of the centre fades. They assumed that like the neighboring Andromeda, Milky Way is a neat flat disk with orderly spiral arms. Since hydrogen atoms in the far outer disk are no longer confined to a thin plane, they get warped.

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