At the center of the Milky Way is a supermassive black hole, surrounded by billions of stars and invisible "dark matter", which can't be seen directly but exerts a gravitational pull that helps keep the galaxy intact. Using these pulses in brightness, scientists can detect the distance of these stars within 3 percent to 5 percent accuracy, study lead author Xiaodian Chen, a researcher at the National Astronomical Observatories, said in the statement.
Deng and his colleagues used a special category of stars called the classical Cepheid stars to measure the distances at the edge of the galaxy.
Further study validated that the stellar warp morphology is in excellent agreement with that of the galaxy's warp.
Prof de Grijs said: "Somewhat to our surprise, we found in 3D our collection of 1,339 Cepheid stars and the Milky Way's gas disc follow each other closely".
Previously, astronomers saw evidence of hydrogen clouds becoming warped in the Milky Way. Artist's impression above of the warped and twisted Milky Way disk.
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Without the strictures of strong gravity, the outer gas disk's hydrogen atoms form an S-like, warped structure - a twist.
"It is notoriously hard to determine distances from the Sun to parts of the Milky Way's outer gas disc without having a clear idea of what that disc actually looks like", says Xiaodian Chen, lead author, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.
"We usually think of spiral galaxies as being quite flat, like Andromeda which you can easily see through a telescope", said Professor Richard de Grijs from Macquarie University in Australia. They also pulsate radially for days to months at a time - and this period of pulsation can be combined with the Cepheid's brightness to reliably establish its distance from the sun.
Our home galaxy, the Milky Way, makes for a pretty space picture, and it looks normal at a distance.
The new map, produced by astronomers from Macquarie University in Australia and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, shows that the warped Milky Way disk also contains young stars.
He said, 'Combining our results with those other observations, we concluded that the Milky Way's warped spiral pattern is most likely caused by torques-or rotational forcing-by the massive inner disk'.
This isn't completely abnormal, because astronomers have noticed the same pattern of progressively twisting spirals in about a dozen other galaxies.