WONKY TIMES

The Milky Way Has A Broken Arm

NASA says it’s “like a splinter poking out from a plank of wood.”

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Milky Way? More like a Kit Kat. You know, “give me a break… give me a break.”

Okay, that’s enough jokes for one article. Scientists and astronomers uncovered a previously unknown feature on what is known as the Sagittarius Arm. It sticks out in a relatively straight line, like a splinter poking out from a plank of wood.

“Stretching some 3,000 light-years, this is the first major structure identified with an orientation so dramatically different than the arm’s,” the space agency said in a statement.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The research team used data from NASA’s now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s Gaia space observatory to locate newborn stars and measure distances to them to create a 3D look at the arm segment. 

“When we put the Gaia and Spitzer data together and finally see this detailed, three-dimensional map, we can see that there’s quite a bit of complexity in this region that just hasn’t been apparent before,” said Kuhn.

The Milky Way is our home (Earth resides in the small Orion arm), and it will continue to be a challenge to work out the details of its structure. As NASA said, it’s like standing in the middle of Times Square and trying to draw a map of the entire island of Manhattan. 

“The stars in the newly discovered structure likely formed around the same time, in the same general area, and were uniquely influenced by the forces acting within the galaxy, including gravity and shear due to the galaxy’s rotation,” said NASA.

The “splinter” find gives scientists a fresh perspective on the galaxy. It may have distinctive spiral arms, but not every star and nebula are coloring within the lines.

Matt Sterner

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