The Halo of Stars Surrounding Our Milky Way Galaxy Doesn’t Have the Shape That Astronomers Expected

The Halo of Stars Surrounding Our Milky Way Galaxy Doesn’t Have the Shape That Astronomers Expected

It’s a bit complicated to know everything that’s surrounding the Milky Way, considering that our galaxy measures 100,000 light-years from one of its edges to the opposite one. It’s also the product of other galaxies merging with one another. 

The Milky Way also has an invisible halo represented by a diffuse amount of stars. According to a new study published in The Astronomical Journal, the galactic halo has a warped shape, similar to the galaxy itself. This comes into contradiction with astronomers’ expectations, who thought that the Milky Way’s halo had a spherical shape. All three axes of the halo have different lengths. 

Textbooks must be rewritten

Once again, science comes to yell at us all and say that we must throw our textbooks in the garbage can. Charlie Conroy, an astronomer from the Harvard & Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), stated, as ScienceAlert quotes:

For decades, the general assumption has been that the stellar halo is more or less spherical and isotropic, or the same in every direction,

We now know that the textbook picture of our galaxy embedded within a spherical volume of stars has to be thrown out.

The launch of the European Space Agency’s Gaia telescope almost a decade ago has played a primordial role in understanding the shape of the Milky Way. The telescope was able to calculate the positions and movements of numerous stars that are considered distant. Therefore, astronomers could understand that our galaxy has a warped and bent shape. 

Ph.D. student Jiwon “Jesse” Han explained, as the same source mentioned above quotes:

These are such intuitively interesting questions to ask about our galaxy: ‘What does the galaxy look like?’ and ‘What does the stellar halo look like?’,

With this line of research and study in particular, we are finally answering those questions.

The Milky Way galaxy is thought to harbor between 100 billion and 200 billion stars. Most of those stars should have planets orbiting them, which means that the odds of life existing elsewhere except our planet are very high.


Cristian Antonescu

Even since he was a child, Cristian was staring curiously at the stars, wondering about the Universe and our place in it. Today he's seeing his dream come true by writing about the latest news in astronomy. Cristian is also glad to be covering health and other science topics, having significant experience in writing about such fields.

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