The structure of the Milky Way is much complex than initially thought.
(Mirror Daily, United States) A new study from specialists reveals that the Milky Way sprawls beyond our imagination. This means that our galaxy is way bigger that researchers initially believed. Special calculations show that it is actually four times larger than the estimation of previous studies.
Galaxies are shaped similar to concentric circles or vortexes. Our Milky Way is composed of four such arms, and the one visible from Earth is called the Local Arm. However, the recent research points out that the shape of the Milky Way is quite different from that of other galaxies, because of the length of the Local Arm.
Scientists explain that our corner of the galaxy is approximately 20,000 light-years long, which is four times more that what previous theories suggested. What’s more, the Local Arm was thought to have modest dimensions, if compared to the other three in the Milky Way. In addition to this, this arm doesn’t behave like the others, because it doesn’t perfectly circle the galaxy like a spiral.
According to the experts in charge of the study, astronomers encounter difficulties with the proper mapping our Milky Way because of the spherical shape of the galaxy. The Earth is located at the core of the galaxy, and this way a proper view of the whole system is something hard to accomplish.
The team of specialists used radio wavelengths to study the skies. Based on the information received from specially designed devices, they could measure the distance which separates Earth from distant stars in the galaxy. The study also points out that there are active processes of star formation in the Local Arm.
Another important finding of the study is that the Milky Way also has a bigger mass than initially thought. This leads scientists to believe that there are many more mysteries about our galaxy and the universe that are still hidden in the cosmos. They know that their job is to unveil these mysteries.
The recent discovery helps astronomers get a more accurate view of the universe, and particularly, of our solar system. The fact that our Milky Way seems to be shaped differently from other galaxies could also lead to further research on the way galaxies form, evolve, and the connection between them.
The new study was published in Science Advances. Specialist Mark Reid is one of the authors of this new research.
Image courtesy of: Wikipedia