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Our Galaxy is 'Warped and Twisted', Say Scientists

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New measurements of our own Milky Way galaxy have revealed that its shape is distorted, which has come as a surprise to astronomers.

Twisted galaxy
Source image credit: NASA. Artistic rendering by Unearthly Media.

Although telescopes allow us to easily observe other galaxies in the night sky, studying the shape of our own galaxy is far more difficult because we are trying to observe it from within. However, now a group of astronomers from China and Australia have released a paper in which they have studied the distances of large bright stars known as 'Cepheids' within our galaxy to determine the actual shape of the Milky Way.

“We usually think of spiral galaxies as being quite flat, like Andromeda which you can easily see through a telescope," says Professor Richard de Grijs, a co-author and astronomer from Macquarie University. "Somewhat to our surprise...in the Milky Way's outer regions, we found that the S-like stellar disk is warped in a progressively twisted spiral pattern.”

It has been suggested by the researchers that the reason for this distortion could be due to 'torques', or rotational forcing, by the massive inner disk, which would be gravitationally affecting the outer edge.

Sources:
Forbes
Nature Astronomy





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