Astronomers just completed a new model of the Milky Way Galaxy that is the most accurate depiction of our galaxy to date. The new model revealed a couple of unexpected twists.
Because Earth is inside the Milky Way Galaxy, we have no way to “step out” of the galaxy to see what it looks like from the outside. Instead, astronomers study the motion and measurements of objects around us to get a picture of what our galaxy looks like.
To begin, scientists used a technique known as interferometry to combine data from dozens of radio telescopes across Japan. This combination of data achieves the same result as a telescope 1,429 miles wide! Then scientists use this data to create a 3D map of our galaxy.
The results of the study showed the Earth is 25,800 light years from the center of the galaxy where a supermassive black hole resides. Before the study, scientists thought the Earth was 27,700 light years from the center, about 2,000 light years further than it really is.
Scientists thought the Earth whizzed through space at 136 miles per second. Now we know the Earth is travelling a bit faster – about 141 miles per second.
Astronomers plan on combining their data with more data from South Korea and China to achieve even more accurate results.