ITDC INDIA EPRESS/ ITDC NEWS The Milky Way's disk of stars is 'warped' and twisted, according to scientists who have built the first accurate 3D map of Earth's home galaxy.
Researchers from the Macquarie University in Australia and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have found for the first time that our solar system is anything but stable and flat.
Instead, it becomes increasingly 'warped' and twisted far away from the Milky Way's centre, according to the study published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
From a great distance, our galaxy would look like a thin disk of stars that orbit once every few hundred million years around its central region, where hundreds of billions of stars provide the gravitational 'glue' to hold it all together.
However, the pull of gravity becomes weaker far away from the Milky Way's inner regions. In the galaxy's far outer disk, the hydrogen atoms making up most of the Milky Way's gas disk are no longer confined to a thin plane, but they give the disk an S-like, warped appearance.
"It is notoriously difficult to determine distances from the sun to parts of the Milky Way's outer gas disk without having a clear idea of what that disk actually looks like," said Xiaodian Chen, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.
Researchers allowed the team to develop the first accurate 3D picture of our Milky Way out to its far outer regions.
Classical Cepheids are young stars that are some four to 20 times as massive as our Sun and up to 100,000 times as bright.
Such high stellar masses imply that they live fast and die young, burning through their nuclear fuel very quickly, sometimes in only a few million years.
They show day- to month-long pulsations, which are observed as changes in their brightness. Combined with a Cepheid's observed brightness, its pulsation period can be used to obtain a highly reliable distance.