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X Marks the Spot at the Center of Milky Way Galaxy

Jul 20, 2016 12:13 AM EDT
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(Photo : NASA/ESA via Getty Images)

Astronomers were prompted to look into the Milky Way galaxy formation structure after a series of tweets about the formation of the Milky Way galaxy between astronomers. This led to the study that confirmed there's an X-shaped formation at the center of the Milly Way galaxy.

The study was done using the data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). The interaction that led to the discovery of the X-shape formation in the middle of the Milky Way galaxy started in May 2015 when Dustin Lang, an astronomer at the Dunlap Institute of Toronto posted a galaxy map on Twitter. "I don't want to admit how long it took to summarize 150 gigapixels into this WISE W1/W2 image," Lang said in a Tweet, explaining the process he had to go through to achieve the results.

Land used the data from WISE's two infrared surveys of the entire galaxy from 2010. The infrared surveys allow astronomers to study the galaxy's structure despite dust that blocks details in visible light. He made his study available on the Internet that ignited the interest of other astronomers worldwide.

Other astronomers started contacting Lang including Melissa Ness, a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany who identified how significant the X structure is. Their collaboration and discovery of the X-shaped formation were published in the Astronomical Journal. 

"The bulge is a key signature of formation of the Milky Way," Ness, the study's lead author said in a press release. "If we understand the bulge we will understand the key processes that have formed and shaped our galaxy," Ness added. 

The Milky Way's appearances in his tweets are fascinating. It looks like a bulge the shape of a football and not a flat disk. After careful scrutiny, it appears that the bulge shows an X structure formation that has never been identified before. 

"There was controversy about whether the X-shaped structure existed," Dustin Lang, co-author of the paper said in an interview with Science Daily. "But our paper gives a good view of the core of our own galaxy. I think it has provided pretty good evidence for the existence of the X-shaped structure," Land added.

This has proven that the technology forms a bond between scientists and astronomers worldwide and it has already paved the way for future collaborations to help mankind further understand the galaxy and the universe.


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