An artistic visualization of the collision between the Milky Way galaxy and the Sausage galaxy, which likely happened between 8 billion and 10 billion years ago. Credit: V. Belokurov (Cambridge, U.K.; and CCA, New York, U.S.) based on the image by ESO/Juan Carlos Muñoz
Far out, man.
A new study by the National Astronomical Observatories of Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC) might explain the Milky Way’s spiral appearance — it’s warped.
Like any galaxy, our home in outer space is made up of a collection of stars, planets, dark matter and other space junk.
The billions of star and galactic bodies that make up a galaxy rotate around its center, making a complete orbit once every few hundred million years, according to Eureka Alert.
It turns out that the further the stars are from the center of the galaxy, the weaker their gravitational pull is.
In other words, the further the stars, the more spread out they will be.
NAOC found that this galactic game of schoolyard bullying forms the warped S-shape of our galaxy.
“We concluded that the Milky Way’s warped spiral pattern is most likely caused by ‘torques’ – or rotational forcing – by the massive inner disk,” says Liu Chao, senior researcher and co-author of the paper.
The study’s breakthrough moment came by observing Cepheids — massive, super bright stars with short life spans.
Using these hotheads as benchmarks, scientists were able to map out accurate distances between objects in the Milky Way.
This finding allowed for an updated map of the galaxy’s “stellar motions,” says Deng Licai, senior researcher at NAOC.
This story originally appeared in the New York Post.