Astronomers create stunning 3D map of the Milky Way to study structure of the galaxy
A group of Polish astronomers have created a 3-D map of the Milky Way that provides a unique perspective on the galaxy.
The map was presented in the pages of the famed journal Science by a team from Warsaw University’s Astronomical Observatory working on the Optimal Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE), a project observing and mapping over 2 billion stars.
“The map created by the Polish astronomers presents a precise image of our galaxy and presents new information about the star systems in which we live,” said Professor Andrzej Udalski, an OGLE project manager, in a statement for PAP.
The map is based upon information gathered from 2,431 Cepheids, which are young pulsating supergiant stars that can be observed across the vast distances of space.
Their observable brightness makes it easier for scientists to measure distances and, subsequently, create an accurate map.
“Our 3-D map of the Milky Way is the first map that is based on the direct distances to thousands of individual objects,” said Przemek Mróz from the OGLE team.
“Our map shows that the Milky Way disc is not flat but it is warped and twisted far and away from the galactic centre.
“Warping of the disk has been detected before but this is the first time we can use individual objects to trace its shape in three dimensions.”
The warped nature of the disk revealed by the map led the livescience.com website to compare it with a giant potato crisp.
The map is a considerable achievement when the vast size of the Milky Way is taken into account.
It measures some 100,000 light years across and contains around 250 billion stars and 100 billion planets.