Milky Way Has An X-Shaped Structure Within Its Central Bulge

Posted: Jul 20 2016, 12:51am CDT | by , Updated: Jul 20 2016, 12:55am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Milky Way has an X-Shaped Structure Within its Central Bulge
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/D.Lang

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New research effort provides a strong evidence for the existence of an enormous X-shaped structure in our galaxy Milky Way

Astronomers have uncovered a strong evidence of a massive X-shaped structure sitting in the central bulge of our galaxy Milky Way. The structure is made of stars and its existence was identified through a research effort driven by Twitter.

Milky Way is barred spiral galaxy with a center filled with hundreds of billions of stars and these stars are estimated to be 100,000 light years in diameter. Barred spiral galaxy is not like conventional spiral galaxies with bulge containing spiral arms. They have a specific rectangular or bar-shaped feature inside them and a bulge of moving stars at the center of this bar.

Astronomers have intensively studied Milky Way using data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) survey of the entire sky in 2010 and suspected that it could have an X- shaped structure at its central bulge but no one had observed it directly.

The center of the Milky Way again came to attention when WISE galactic maps were posted on Twitter last year and allowed the astronomers to view the structure of galaxy thoroughly again. The research effort sparked by a social media account resulted in the surprising discovery of the “X” mark at the center of the galaxy.

“We see the boxy shape, and the X within it, clearly in the WISE image, which demonstrates that internal formation processes have driven the bulge formation. This also reinforces the idea that our galaxy has led a fairly quiet life without major merging events since the bulge was formed, as this shape would have been disrupted if we had any major interactions with other galaxies." Melissa Ness from Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany who was one of the two researchers involved in the study said.

The other way a bugle could be formed is when galaxies merged and evolve new shape. Milky Way has not merged with any large galaxy in millions of years as it is not showing any signs of disruption in shape.

“The bulge is key signature of formation of the Milky Way Galaxy,” said Ness. “If we understand the bulge we will understand the key processes that have formed and shaped our galaxy.”

Researchers believe there research has provided a detailed view of the core of the Milky Way and it may put an end to the longstanding controversy about whether the X-shaped structure existed in the galaxy.

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