The Milky Way is Actually Warped

Universe Today | 2/6/2019 | Staff
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For centuries, astronomers have been studying the Milky Way in order to get a better understanding of its size and structure. And while modern instruments have yielded invaluable observations of our galaxy and others (which have allowed astronomers to gain a general picture of what it looks like), a truly accurate model of our galaxy has been elusive.

For example, a recent study by a team of astronomers from National Astronomical Observatories of Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC) has shown that the Milky Way’s disk is not flat (as previously thought). Based on their findings, it appears that the Milky Way becomes increasingly warped and twisted the farther away one ventures from the core.

Study - Details - Findings - Journal - Nature

The study which details their findings recently appeared in the scientific journal Nature, titled “An intuitive 3D map of the Galactic warp’s precession traced by classical Cepheids.” The study was led by Xiaodian Chen of the NAOC’s Key Laboratory for Optical Astronomy, and included members from the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University and China West Normal University.

To break it down, galaxies like the Milky Way consists of thin disks of stars that orbit around a central bulge once every few hundred million years. In this bulge, the gravitational force of hundreds of billions of stars and dark matter hold the galaxy’s matter and gas together. However, in the far outer regions of the galaxy, the hydrogen atoms making up most of the gas disk are no longer confined to a thin plane.

Dr - Chen - Kavli - Institute - Press

As Dr. Chen explained in a recent Kavli Institute press statement:

“It is notoriously difficult to determine distances from the Sun to parts of the Milky Way’s outer gas disk without having a clear idea of what that disk actually looks like. However, we recently published a new catalogue of periodic variable stars known...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Universe Today
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