While analysing the complex structure of the Milky Way, an international team of astronomers from Italy and the United Kingdom has recently derived the shape of the Galactic outer stellar disc, and provided the strongest evidence that, besides being warped, it is at least 70% more extended than previously thought. Their findings will be reported in an upcoming issue of Astronomy & Astrophysics, and is a new step in understanding the large-scale structure of our Galaxy.
An edge-on view of the ESO 510-G13 warped galaxy.
Courtesy of NASA
The disc of our Galaxy is made up of three major components: the stellar, the gaseous, and the interstellar dust components. The warping of the gas and dust component has been well established and documented. In particular, the gaseous component is known to be warped and to extend out to 25,000 parsecs (pc). In contrast, the true extent of this stellar warping is still being debated. Over the past years, there has been changing evidence of a difference in the warp amplitude between stars and gas. These studies have led to the idea that the Milky Way stellar disc is truncated beyond 14,000 pc from the Galactic centre.
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