a new 3D map of the milky way shows warped shape of our galaxy

a new 3D map of the milky way shows warped shape of our galaxy

a detailed three-dimensional map of the milky way has been revealed, showing that our galaxy is not a flat disc as detailed in academic texts but in fact has a ‘warped and twisted’ shape. to create the map, researchers at the university of warsaw in poland measured the distances between thousands of stars and the sun to chart three-dimensional coordinates across the milky way.

a new 3D map of the milky way shows warped shape of our galaxy

the milky way curves at the edges in an S shape
images courtesy of k. ulaczyk / j. skowron / OGLE / astronomical observatory, university of warsaw via youtube



‘our map shows the milky way disk is not flat. it is warped and twisted far away from the galactic center,’ says przemek mroz, co-author of the study which has been published in the journal science. ‘this is the first time we can use individual objects to trace its shape in three dimensions.’


researchers measured the distances of some of the brightest stars in the milky way, called cepheid variable stars, to map three-dimensional coordinates across the milky way. cepheids burn hundreds of times brighter than the sun and pulsate at regular intervals. researchers used these pulsations to measure the distance of a cepheid star comparing their luminosity with how much light is perceived from earth.

a new 3D map of the milky way shows warped shape of our galaxy

an animated version of the researchers’ map



‘distances to cepheids can be measured with an accuracy better than 5%,’ says lead author dorota skowron. in comments to space.com, she added: ‘it is not some statistical fact available only to a scientist’s understanding. it is apparent by eye.’

a new 3D map of the milky way shows warped shape of our galaxy

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



during their research, warsaw researchers also noticed that clusters of cepheids followed the shape of the galaxy’s spiral with younger stars closer to the center, and older stars spread out towards the edges. an animated version of the researchers’ map illustrates the curved shape of the milky way, which astronomers speculate might have been bent out of shape by past interactions with nearby galaxies.

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