New 3D map shows the warped shape of the Milky Way’s disk

A new 3D map of the Milky Way shows warped shape of our galaxy, that flares up and down at the edges.

The three-dimensional map of the Milky Way created using classical Cepheid variable stars, shows that has a ‘warped and twisted’ shape.

Dorota Skowron, an astronomer at Warsaw University, said:

“We hope that our paper will be a very good starting point for more sophisticated modeling of the galaxy’s past.

The breakthrough moment was certainly when we saw the first plot of our Cepheids on top of the typical galaxy picture and we noticed the wealth of structures. This took six years, but it was worth it.”

Eloisa Poggio, an astronomer from the University of Turin in Italy, that was not involved in the research, said:

“Mapping the structure of the Milky Way is the basis for several fields of research in astronomy. It is strongly related to the formation history of our galaxy. Therefore, it’s important to have 3D maps based on precise distance measurements.”

The Milky Way’s Cepheid stars are plotted in three dimensions, revealing to astronomers the galaxy’s warped shape.

Cepheids, unlike other stars, vary in brightness in a particular way that helps scientists make more precise estimates of their distances from Earth.

In the video, brighter colors represent Cepheids closer to the warped plane of the galaxy, indicated by the grid. The star icon indicates our sun.

New 3D map shows the warped shape of the Milky Way’s disk

The oldest stars are shown in red and are 400 million years old, while the youngest that are 30 million years old, in blue.

Images credit K. Ulaczyk / J. Skowron / OGLE / University of Warsaw