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Milky Way is warped and twisted, not flat

Scientists in Australia and China create 3D map revealing the true shape of the galaxy

Milky Way is warped and twisted, not flat
The galactic map was made by measuring distances to more than 1,300 stars. Photograph: Chen Xiaodian

The Milky Way is warped and twisted rather than flat like a celestial pancake, according to the most accurate 3D map of the galaxy yet.

Nearby galaxy set to collide with Milky Way, say scientists

Scientists in Australia and China created the galactic map by measuring the distances to more than 1,300 large, pulsating stars that together reveal the true shape of the Milky Way.

The stars, known as “classical Cepheids”, shine up to 100,000 times brighter than the sun and their distances can be recorded with about 95% accuracy to the edge of the galaxy.

Richard de Grijs, an astronomer at Macquarie University in Sydney, said the stars showed how the Milky Way has become progressively twisted in its outer regions, an effect most likely caused by the galaxy’s massive inner disc unleashing powerful rotational forces.

The work is published in Nature Astronomy.

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