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Milky Way Larger Than Previously Thought, Isn't Quite Shaped Spiral

Oct 02, 2016 04:30 AM EDT
Milky way depiction
Scientists say mapping out the entire Milky Way is extremely difficult because we are on the center of it
(Photo : Pixabay/Creative Commons)

New study reveals that our section of Milky Way is 30 percent larger than what scientists thought, thereby providing new insights about our neighboring planets.

According to the radio astronomers, whose study was published in the journal Science Advances, the sun's arm of the galaxy tagged as the Local Arm or Orion Spur is comparable other major arms, stretching 20,000 light-years long almost reaching the Perseus Arm.

Our solar system is located at the edge of what's called the Local Arm and it lies between two major arms, Perseus and Sagittarius.

"When we actually measured distances in the Local Arm we were surprised. A lot of the material that we thought was in a nearby arm was actually in the Local Arm," Mark J. Reid of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, one of the authors told National Geographic.

This implies that our Milky Way is a wobbly spiral. Because unlike some galaxies with near perfect spirals that encircle the galaxy entirely, our Local Arm extends throughout.

Because mapping out our entire galaxy is extremely difficult with our position being at the center, the team peered out into the galaxy at radio wavelength. Christian Science Monitor said the team used the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Long Baseline Array of telescopes to locate where star-forming regions were in the sky. Afterwhich, they used a simple calculation to estimate the distance between the Earth and other celestial bodies.

Inverse notes that the team also spotted a new spur that stretches between our Local arm and the neighboring Sagittarius Arm; further implying that our Milky Way is not a perfect spiral but a messy one.

The study claims the findings will change the way we look at our Local Arm, as it can now be considered as a major structure of our Milky Way.

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