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The Milky Way is a distorted space

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The Art of the Milky Way Galaxy, one side of the galaxy, sloping upwards, and one side sloping down.

View larger. | The concept of the artist – which is said to be "slightly exaggerated" – to the true form of our distorted Milky Way galaxy. Image by Xiaodian Chen (NAO, CAS) / Science in Public.

We believe spiral galaxies are flat. You often hear that the disk of our galaxy is described as "flat as a pancake". The Great Spiral Galaxy in the Neighborhood – the Andromeda Galaxy – appearance flat through a telescope. But nature can be complex and this week (February 4, 2019) astronomers made a surprising message. They said our home galaxy, the Milky Way, is not flat. Instead, it is distorted and distorted.

Astronomers from Macquarie University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences used 1339 classic cespheid variable stars for this study. These are stars that brighten and darken in a way that changes according to real luminous stars. So these stars are used as classic distance indicators. Astronomers use data for these stars from the wide-ranging infrared researcher (WISE). The work has made them create a 3D map of what they say is the "true" form of our Milky Way. A document describing this study was published on February 4 in the reviewed journal Nature AstronomyThe astronomers say:

They found that the disk of the stars of the Milky Way became more distorted and distorted as the stars from the center of the galaxy were farther away.

Astronomers do not like thinking about our Milky Way as somehow "special." But from its familiarity today, its distorted shape gives it a specialty, though not unique. Astronomers have watched a dozen other galaxies displaying similar twisted spiral patterns in their outer regions.

So our curve on the Milky Way is rare, but not seen elsewhere in the universe.

A view of an elegant flat-galaxy S with visible clouds of dust.

Our Milky Way is not the only distorted galaxy. This galaxy, labeled with ESO 510-G13, is a twisted spiral galaxy. Like the Milky Way, it has a pronounced base in its gas disc and a lesser-known disc at its core. Image by NASA / Space Telescope Science Institute.

The discovery of the Milky Way was not easy, say these astronomers. Their statement explained:

The attempt to determine the true shape of our galaxy is like staying in the Sydney garden and trying to determine the shape of Australia. But over the last 50 years there have been signs that the hydrogen clouds in the Milky Way are distorted. The new map shows that the curved disk of the Milky Way also contains young stars. This confirms that the distorted spiral pattern is caused by the torque of rotation of the massive inner disk of the stars of the Milky Way.

Red and blue dots on rotating 3D graphics.

Animation of the 3D map of the creep variable stars in our Milky Way, revealing its distorted shape. For more information on this image, see the illustration below. Image through science in the public.

Their statement also states:

From a long distance, our spiral galaxy will look like a thin disk of stars that travels once a few hundred million years around its central area, where hundreds of billions of stars provide a gravitational "glue" to hold it together.

But this attraction of gravity is much weaker in the far outer disk of the galaxy. There, the hydrogen atoms, which make up the bulk of the Milky Way Gas Disc, are no longer limited to a thin plane, but instead give the disk S a similar or distorted appearance.

Researchers have been able to determine the distorted appearance of our galaxy after they have developed the first accurate three-dimensional picture of the Milky Way to its distant outer regions.

All this raises a question. If, as these scientists think, the massive inner disk of our galaxy is what probably causes the torque that creates the curved spiral pattern of the Milky Way – why are most other spiral galaxies not so distorted and distorted?

Why do not we see many galaxies distorted in this way?

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3 D graph of the outline of the galaxy with data points blue and red in it.

3D distribution of the classical cepheid variable stars in the distorted Milky Way disk (red and blue dots) centered on the location of the sun (shown as a large orange symbol). Image through science in the public.

Eventually: Macquarie University astronomers and the Chinese Academy of Sciences used 1339 classic Cepheid variable stars to produce a 3D map of our galaxy. They say this is the first accurate 3D map. It reveals the shape of our galaxy as distorted and distorted.

Source: Intuitive 3D map of the galactic base precession, traced by classic cefeids.

Through science in the public

Deborah Bird

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