Although scientists have looked at other galaxies’ shape for many years now, they didn’t figure out yet how the Milky Way, our galaxy, looks like. Maybe that happens because we are limited, being part of it and having a perspective which is totally different from the one outside the galaxy. “New Scientist” makes available an analysis conducted by Ye Xu and his team from the Purple Mountain Observatory in Nanjing. They used a star-measuring trick known as parallax. This has revealed new data about our galaxy.
Scientists have thought that Milky Way has the form of a spiral, a fact which is not denied by Ye Xu’s team. But their study shows that the lengths and the densities still need to be debated by experts because they managed to reach different conclusions from the previously existing ones. The Milky Way is split into arms and the arm that hold us is the Local Arm, previously thought to be smaller than the others. After this new study was conducted, it has been proven that this arm is as long as the others.
What is even more astonishing is that experts had shown through their measurements that the Milky Way is not an enormous spiral with arms precisely defined. But rather, it’s a whorl which has many annexes attached to it, among other prods. Some idealistic scientists have imagined our Milky Way as being symmetrical, but it has a very chaotic form.
Another important discovery made during this research was that one of the prods seems to connect the Sagittarius Arm with Local Arm, the one on which our planet is situated on. This bound was not analyzed in the past as it was supposed to not link any spiral arms of great importance.
The discoveries made by the Chinese team would soon be validated by the Gaia spacecraft which will be sent in cosmos by the European Space Agency. This corporation intends to design during their mission a 3D map of the Milky Way. With small steps, we are approaching to a new view of our giant galaxy. If this three-dimensional map is accurate enough, we will be able to understand the position of the Solar System in this enormous sea of black.
What do you think about the size and shape of the Milky Way? Do you think our technology is advanced enough to find out more about our galaxy?
Image source: wikipedia