In a new study led by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Yan Xu, it has been found that our galaxy Milky Way is much larger than originally anticipated. The study conducted at the Troy, New York-based institute will soon be published in the Astrophysical Journal.
During the said study, researchers revisited data obtained during the SDSS or Sloan Digital Sky Survey. In 2002, the SDSS established the existence of a bulging ring containing stars beyond the galaxy’s known plane; the ring was named as the Monoceros Ring.
Professor Heidi Newberg, another researcher representing the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said that during the recent study he and his colleagues came to know that Milky Way is much more than just a star-filled disk on a flat plane; it’s actually corrugated. Prof Newberg added that as the Milky Way starts radiating in the opposite direction of the Sun, a minimum of four ripples can be observed in its disk.
More importantly, this new study reveals that features which were previously thought to be rings are all parts of the galactic disk. This automatically makes Milky Way a bigger entity than originally estimated. According to the scientists involved in the said study, the actual width of the galaxy is around 150,000 light-years; previously it was believed that the Milky Way is around 100,000 light-years wide.
Xu, the lead author of the study, said that when researching he and his team found that the number of stars constituting the Milky Way tends to diminish rapidly when they are around 50,000 light years away from the galaxy’s center. He added that the study also showed that the Monoceros Ring, which is a part of the Milky Way, appears at a distance of around 60,000 light-years from the galaxy’s center.
According to Xu and his colleagues, the Monoceros Ring is nothing but a ripple within the disk. Xu said that there might be more such ripples within the galaxy that are yet to be discovered.
How did the information collected during the 2002 SDSS help? The team of researchers conducting the new study used data offered by the SDSS for establishing that there’s an oscillating irregularity in the number of stars in both sides of Milky Way’s galactic plane.