A new study has revealed that the Milky Way galaxy is actually much bigger than humans previously thought. According to new measurements, the Milky Way galaxy is 50% bigger than it was thought and our own solar system occupies a smaller space in this enormous galaxy.
Past studies have estimated that our Milky Way galaxy is around 100,000 light years, where one light year is around 6 trillion miles. Scientists from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New Jersey, United States have done new research that suggests the Milky Way galaxy is 50 % bigger than that, which puts it at around 50,000 light years bigger.
Lead author of the study, Professor Yan Xu from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said that after extensive research, astronomers observed that the number of the stars in the Milky Way diminishes rapidly at around 50,000 light years from the center of our galaxy. After that, a ring of stars appears at around 60,000 light years from the center of the Milky Way.
This ring first discovered in 2002 is a band of stars called the Monoceros Ring and it surrounds the outer corners of the Miley Way. At first, scientists believed that these stars were just a tidal debris steam left over from a neighboring dwarf galaxy, but a new debate has recently sparked that questions the initial belief. Some scientists now believe that the stars are actually part of our own galaxy, which would make the Milk Way 50% bigger than originally thought.
Heidi Newberg, an astronomer involved in the study said that the Monoceros Ring and the Milky Way may be related because the ring is following the same spiral structure of the galaxy. Newberg was involved in the discovery of the Monoceros Ring back in 2002 and it is very much surprised by the new measurements and studies that show the Milky Way galaxy is 50% bigger than former estimates.
Professor Xu stated:
We identified an asymmetry in disk stars that oscillates from the north to the south, to the north to the south across the galactic plane in the anticenter direction. What we see now is that this apparent ring is actually a ripple in the disk. And it may well be that there are more ripples further out which we have not yet seen.
The scientists are hoping that high resolution 3D images of the Monoceros Ring are helpful in revealing even more details about the size of our galaxy. The next step for the researchers is to use the Gaia telescope in Europe to continue their investigations.
Image Source: ThinkInc