3D map of Milky Way shows our Galaxy is warped in an S shape

Our galaxy was generally thought to be a flat disc consisting of some 250 billion stars but astronomers have presented a twist on how we see our galaxy, the Milky Way, with a new three-dimensional map.

The new map suggests the disc isn’t flat but instead is twisted into a S-shape. A team of researchers at the University of Warsaw, Poland, has created the most accurate 3D model of the Milky Way Galaxy to date.

For creating the new 3D map of our Milky Way Galaxy, astronomers used data from the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (a long term sky surveying project based at the University of Warsaw) by looking at the distance of some of the brightest, pulsating stars in the Milky Way, known as Cepheids.

Dorota Skowron who led this project says

“Cepheids are ideal to study the Milky Way Galaxy structure because they follow a relation between their pulsation period and their luminosity, meaning that we can measure their intrinsic brightness based on their period and then, distance can be determined by comparing the apparent and intrinsic brightness of the star”

New 3D map of Milky Way Galaxy is created by putting together the data of 2,431 Cepheids (collected over six years) and putting them all on a map together, the researchers were able to produce a 3D representation of the Milky Way Galaxy.

The team says the warping shown in the resulting map may have been caused by past interactions with smaller galaxies within the Milky Way called satellite galaxies or as a result of intergalactic gas and dark matter.

The Milky Way’s Cepheid stars are plotted in three dimensions, revealing the galaxy’s warped shape. Source – Science News

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