Recent measurements indicate that what we thought about the shape of the Milky Way is completely wrong. These discoveries will change our perception of our cosmic environment. What does this mean for our knowledge of the universe and our place in it? Who knows, we might not even be from our own galaxy.
What does our galaxy look like? This question is not easy because we are watching her from inside her disk. For many years, astronomers imagined the Milky Way as a spiral with a central bulge and four main spiral arms, as well as many other smaller branches. However, new measurements indicate that this traditional picture is incorrect. According to Chinese scientists at the Zijinshan Astronomical Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, our galaxy has only two main arms, and the other two are the result of collisions of other space objects. The search results are published in Astrophysical Journal.
“There are corpses of galaxies flying everywhere. The killer is the Milky Way.”
“The galaxies around the Milky Way are moving very fast. They will fall out of its gravitational field and fly away.”
“Everyone thought that she was younger, but the truth came out. We are not talking about Rosienik, but about the Milky Way
Our galaxy has two main arms, and the rest are remnants of other galaxies
The researchers came to this conclusion by analyzing data from a new generation of space instruments that can precisely measure the distance to individual stars. One technology that makes this possible is very long baseline interferometry, which picks up radio signals from scanning instruments, stars that emit microwaves. This technology allows you to determine the distance with an accuracy of up to 20 microarcseconds. The team was able to locate more than 200 such stars.
Another source of new data is the Gaia space observatory, which is currently mapping the locations of a billion stars in the Milky Way. The researchers focused on hot, massive suns called OB stars. They are ideal for studying galactic structure because they do not travel far from where they formed. Researchers have estimated the locations of nearly 24,000 of these stars. The team also included the location of nearly a thousand open star clusters, which were also worked out from the Gaia data. After mapping the locations of these objects, the team looked for spiral shapes that matched their distribution.
It turns out that a galaxy model with two main spiral arms fits the data better. In the Milky Way, the main arms should be the Angular arm and the Perseus arm. Other smaller branches are more distal, spreading and irregular and not attached to the main structure. Scientists believe that these tiny arms were formed by a collision between the Milky Way and other galaxies or clusters.
Until now, it was thought that there were four main arms of the galaxy: the Sagittarius arm (Sagittarius-Keel arm), the Angle arm (Swan arm, Outer arm), the Perseus arm, and the Cross arm (Shield arm). It is accompanied by several smaller branches: the Orion arm, the proximal arm of three kiloparsecs, and the distal arm of three kiloparsecs.
The Milky Way is a cosmic mean.
What does this mean for our understanding of the Milky Way? First of all, our galaxy is not as unique as previously thought. Most spiral galaxies have two main arms, and this is the simplest and most natural form of such structures. So our galaxy is a typical representative of its class.
What is more interesting and at the same time funnier, our Earth and our Sun rest in Orion’s arm. It is a large structure, although it is smaller than the main arms of the galaxy. If it is not the main arm, the study indicates that it may have formed by colliding with another galaxy. And that could mean that we are guests in the Milky Way from another galaxy. However, we will have to wait for confirmation of these revelations.
The team also confirmed that the Milky Way has a central bulge, or bar, from which spiral arms emerge. The bar is about 10,000 light-years across. The researchers say their new map is the most accurate and complete reconstruction of the Milky Way’s shape to date. Their work could help better understand the history and evolution of our galaxy and its place among other galaxies in the universe.
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