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“X” Discovered In Center of Milky Way

Bob Eklund Looking Up

Bob Eklund
Looking Up

An enhanced, close-up view centred on the Galaxy’s bulge and the blue-tinted “X.” Credit: D. Lang/Dunlap Institute

An enhanced, close-up view centred on the Galaxy’s bulge and the blue-tinted “X.” Credit: D. Lang/Dunlap Institute

 

Note: This is a press release from Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto.

Astronomers have uncovered the strongest evidence yet that an enormous X-shaped structure made of stars lies within the central bulge of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Previous computer models, observations of other galaxies, and observations of our own galaxy have suggested that the X-shaped structure existed. But no one had observed it directly; and some astronomers argued that previous research that pointed indirectly to the existence of the X could be explained in other ways.

“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, published this month in the Astrophysical Journal. “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 Milky Way Galaxy is a barred spiral galaxy: a disk-shaped collection of dust, gas and billions of stars, 100,000 light-years in diameter. It is far from a simple disk structure, being comprised of two spiral arms, a bar-shaped feature that runs through its center, and a central bulge of stars. The X-shaped structure is a part of the bulge.

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