July 15, 2024

The Milky Way looks very different from what was previously thought

The Milky Way looks very different from what was previously thought

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from: Theresa Toth

New insights into the shape of our galaxy: A recent study refutes previous assumptions about the structure of the Milky Way.

BEIJING – The Milky Way presents itself as an impressive spectacle in the night sky. To the naked eye, the galaxy appears as a bright, bar-shaped line. This consists of many stars closely bound together, resulting in a characteristically bright and diffuse appearance. After researchers recently published a map of the Milky Way, new measurements now indicate that it may look very different than previously thought.

The shape of the Milky Way: Modern measuring instruments provide new insights

The Milky Way was previously thought to be a galaxy with four large spiral arms radiating from a thick central bulge. This shape is particularly unique: Although other spiral galaxies exist, most have only two spiral arms, according to the journal. space.com to explain. However, the representation of the Milky Way with four arms may be wrong.

Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) have Astrophysical Journal A new study has been published. “Despite a lot of work, the overall shape of the Milky Way’s spiral structure remains unclear,” the researchers explained. “Over the past two decades, precise distance measurements have given us the ability to solve this problem.”

The Milky Way appears as a bright white line in the night sky. © Robert Seitz / Imago

The researchers refer to the Milky Way’s shape as “two-armed symmetry.”

The research group analyzed data from the latest cosmic instruments that are able to more precisely determine the distances to different stars. They took a closer look at nearly 200 celestial bodies and created an updated map of our galaxy. They then combined the obtained data with results obtained from the Gaia Space Telescope, a project of the European Space Agency (ESA), which specializes in the careful study of stellar motions.

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Analysis of the data obtained showed that the Milky Way could only have two spiral arms instead of four. “Using the precise positions of very small bodies, we propose for the first time that our galaxy has a multi-armed shape consisting of two-armed symmetry,” the astronomers explain.

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The current model of the Milky Way could form the basis for further research

The Milky Way is therefore a bound spiral galaxy, from whose central band the so-called Norma and the Perseus arm emanate. The researchers described their findings: “As it extends from the innermost parts of the galaxy to the outer parts, it bifurcates and connects with the arms of Centaur and Sagittarius.”

According to the study, there must be other irregular arms at the edge of the Milky Way that are not connected to the galaxy’s central bulge. The fragmentation of the spiral arms is likely caused by the collision of our galaxy with other galaxies. According to the researchers, the new model of the Milky Way could form the basis for further studies.

Analyzes of the Milky Way continue to provide new insights: According to researchers, there is a large black hole in the center of the galaxy. (rrrr)