The Milky Way is not a stable slice of stars discovered through new research, but in fact it is distorted and twisted the farther you look away from the center.
Scientists at the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC) have discovered the unusual shape and published their findings in the journal Nature Astronomy.
From afar, the Milky Way actually looks like a thin star disc orbiting a mysterious center every few hundred million years.
At the center of our galaxy is a supermassive black hole, but also hundreds of billions of stars and a huge mass of dark matter holding everything together with gravity.
But farther away from this inner core, the hydrogen atoms that make up most of the gas disk are no longer tightly bound to the thin plane and bend over and under it.
This S-shaped distorted appearance is a revelation to scientists who want to accurately map the Milky Way.
"It's known to be difficult to determine the distance of the sun from parts of the Milky Way's outer gas disk without having a clear idea of what that disk actually looks like," Dr. Chen Xiaodian.
Dr. Chen, a researcher at the NAOC and lead author of the study, said the discovery of new stars helped astronomers get a more accurate picture of the galaxy.
"We have recently published a new catalog of restrained variable stars known as classical Cepheids, for which distances can be determined to an accuracy of 3 to 5%," Dr. Chen.
Thanks to this new database, the team was able to create the first accurate three-dimensional image of the Milky Way to the remotest regions.
The Dr. Chen's classic cepheids are young stars that can be up to 20 times the size of the sun, 100,000 times as bright.
These giant star masses literally live fast and die young, burning their nuclear fuel quickly – sometimes in just a few million years.
One of the most important signals they let go is variations in brightness that last from one day to one month, and this light surge can be used to measure their distance.
"To our surprise, we found out that our collection of 1,339 Cepheid stars and the Milky Way's gas disk follow closely in 3D, providing new insights into the origin of our home galaxy," added Professor Richard de Grijs.
Professor de Grijs of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and senior co-author of the newspaper, added, "Perhaps more importantly, we have found in the outer regions of the Milky Way that the S-like star disc is warped in a progressive twist Spiral pattern. "
"If we combine our results with these other observations, we have come to the conclusion that the warped spiral pattern of the Milky Way is most likely caused by" torques "- or rotational drive – through the massive inner disk," Dr. Liu Chao, senior researcher and another co-author of the paper.
"This new morphology provides an important updated map for studies of star motion in our galaxy and the formation of the Milky Way disk," Dr. Deng Licai, senior researcher at the NAOC and co-author of the newspaper again.