"Milky Way Galaxy" by Nick Risinger / Public Domain

Milky Way’s twisted spiral revealed in 3D

Aug 2, 2019

By Elizabeth Gibney

The twisted form of the Milky Way has been revealed in three dimensions, thanks to a map of bright, young pulsating stars.

The map is the most detailed yet to be made of the galaxy using only direct distances to individual stars. The best maps of the Milky Way so far have used indirect measures — based on observations of gas or stars in a given direction and structures seen in other galaxies. The latest chart was published in Science on 2 August1.

A team at the University of Warsaw measured the positions and distances of supergiant stars known as Cepheids, using the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile — a project that has doubled the number of known Cepheids in the Milky Way. Mapping the distances traces the Milky Way’s spiral arms, and how the disk warps at its farthest reaches, to form an S-shape when seen side-on.

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