The Milky Way galaxy is full of ripples and at least 50% larger than we think
A new study has found that the Milky Way galaxy is at least 50% larger than previously thought (see below).
The new findings from an international team of scientists indicate the galactic disk is contoured into several concentric ripples.
The research was led by +Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Professor +Heidi Jo Newberg.
The above image shows how the Milky Way galactic disk is a corrugated galaxy with concentric ripples.
Newberg says in a statement, "In essence, what we found is that the disk of the Milky Way isn't just a disk of stars in a flat plane--it's corrugated. As it radiates outward from the sun, we see at least four ripples in the disk of the Milky Way. While we can only look at part of the galaxy with this data, we assume that this pattern is going to be found throughout the disk."
The study revisits astronomical data from the +Sloan Digital Sky Survey.
The 2002 survey established the presence of a bulging ring of stars beyond the known plane of the Milky Way.
The new findings show that the features previously identified as rings are actually part of the galactic disk. This extends the known width of the Milky Way from 100,000 light years across to 150,000 light years.
+Yan Xu, a scientist at the National Astronomical Observatories of China and lead author of the paper, says, "Going into the research, astronomers had observed that the number of Milky Way stars diminishes rapidly about 50,000 light years from the center of the galaxy, and then a ring of stars appears at about 60,000 light years from the center.
What we see now is that this apparent ring is actually a ripple in the disk. And it may well be that there are more ripples further out which we have not yet seen."
A research paper on the findings, "Rings and Radial Waves in the Disk of the Milky Way," was published in the journal, Astrophysical Journal.
Learn more and check out a video with Professor Heidi Jo Newberg explaining the corrugated Milky Way galaxy.
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Picture credit: Science, Space and Robots