A new survey has allowed Astronomers to discover there is a massive X-Shaped Structure sitting at the center of our Galaxy.
It seems that X marks the spot. Astronomers have found a huge X-shaped structure located the center of our galaxy, a fact that was suggested by earlier models but not directly observed until now.
“There was controversy about whether the X-shaped structure existed,” says Dustin Lang, a Research Associate at the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto, and co-author of the paper describing the discovery. “But our paper gives a good view of the core of our own galaxy. I think it has provided pretty good evidence for the existence of the X-shaped structure.”
The results of the study appear in the Astronomical Journal where experts explain their finding.
The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy: there are billions of stars grouped in a ‘structure’ of 100,000 light years in diameter. It consists of two spiral arms and a bar-shaped structure that runs strangely through its center. Its far from a simple disk-shaped galaxy.
The central bulge of our Milky Way resembles a rectangular BOX when viewed –as we view it— from within the plane of the Galaxy. Strangely, researchers have found that the X-Shaped structure is an integral component of the galactic bulge of our galaxy.
Astronomers are speculating on two ways that they believe the bulge could have formed. One is that it may have formed in the distant past when our Galaxy, the Milky Way, merged with other galaxies in the vicinity. The other theory proposes that it may have developed without the help of external influences.
Researchers were able to take a peek at the bulge when Land re-analysed data from the WISE space telescope.
“The bulge is a key signature of formation of the Milky Way Galaxy,” says Ness. “If we understand the bulge we will understand the fundamental processes that have formed and shaped our galaxy.”
“The shape of the bulge tells us about how it has formed. We see the X-shape and boxy morphology so clearly in the WISE image, and this demonstrates that internal formation processes have been the ones driving the bulge formation.”
According to experts, the discovery is also evidence that the Milky Way did not experience any drastic merging events ever since the bulge came into existence. If it had undergone significant changes, then these would have drastically disrupted its shape.
“Ness saw the tweet and immediately recognized the importance of the X-shaped structure,” says Lang. “We arranged to meet at an upcoming conference we were both attending. The paper was born from that meeting. That’s the power of extensive surveys and open science!”