The Milky Way galaxy is warped, according to new 3D map

The Milky Way is being warped and twisted study says	 	 	 			Getty Images

The Milky Way is being warped and twisted study says Getty Images

But it does help them make more sense of our galaxy.Because we live in this galaxy, that makes it harder to observe, and dust and starlight make it even more difficult when using telescopes.

But a new study has shown that in reality the Milky Way is warped.

A new study by the National Astronomical Observatories of Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC) might explain the Milky Way's spiral appearance - it's warped.

The team built their map using 1339 large pulsating stars each up to 100,000 brighter than our sun. So our Milky Way's twists are rare but not unique. A dozen other galaxies had previously been shown to display similar warping, the researchers reported today (Feb. 4) in the journal Nature Astronomy.

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.

Given their mass and brightness, they probably burn through their fuel quickly and die after a few million years - young for the lifetime of a star.

The light of these short-lived stars changes regularly, in day- to month-long cycles. Since a Cepheid's period tells astronomers how bright the star truly is, measuring how bright it appears lets astronomers draw an accurate distance map.

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Prof de Grijs said: 'Somewhat to our surprise, we found in 3D our collection of 1,339 Cepheid stars and the Milky Way's gas disc follow each other closely. Just like a goldfish can't see its bowl from the outside, our position in the universe means we can't see our home galaxy, the Milky Way, as the rest of the universe sees it.

The first accurate 3D map of our galaxy reveals its true shape: warped and twisted.

Researchers from Macquarie University, Australia, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences made their findings after creating a new 3-D map of the Milky Way, which allowed them to better estimate its shape. The gravity of all these objects hold the galaxy together. But as you move toward the outermost reaches of the galaxy, the gravitational glue of the centre fades.

The stars appeared to take on the same shape as the hydrogen gas, warping out to around 50,000 light-years from the Milky Way's centre. The ends of the Milky Way bend like an S in a "progressively twisted spiral pattern", study co-author Richard de Grijs of Australia's Macquarie University said in the statement.

"This research provides a crucial updated map for studies of our galaxy's stellar motions and the origins of the Milky Way's disk", says Licai Deng, senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and co-author on the paper. You can see their final plot in the video below, published in Nature Astronomy.

One researcher not involved with this study, Annie Robin, astrophysicist at the Observatoire de Besançon in France, thought the difference between the hydrogen and the Cepheid data was quite surprising, though the team's results did agree with previous papers.

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