Astronomers have suggested through a new study that Milky Way and the neighborhood we are located in – the Local Arm – are both much larger than previously thought.
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, researcher co-authored a paper published in Science Advances wherein new information about the structure of Local Arm has been revealed through distance measurements at radio wavelengths using the Very Long Baseline Array for eight regions of massive star formation near the Local spiral arm of the Milky Way. The ‘Local Arm’ or the ‘Orion Spur’, which is a separate piece of an arm that was believed to be much smaller previously, isn’t in fact small but stretches more than 20,000 light-years long. This effectively means that our neighborhood is respectfully big and is four times in length than previously thought.
There are other scientific implications of the study as well. Researchers explain that the larger Local Arm effectively means that our Milky Way isn’t as symmetrical as previously thought and the structure of our galaxy could be slightly different than previously thought.
The study indicate that the massive star forming regions near the Local Arm means that ‘Orion Spur’ is a larger structure. This sits in line with a previous study wherein it was suggested that ‘Orion Spur’ isn’t a backward spur, but rather a full-fledged arm.
The team found evidence that suggests that there is a true spur that acts as a galactic bridge between our Local Arm and the nearby Sagittarius Arm – an indication that we haven’t fully understood our Milky Way. Our galaxy has been pegged as rather more messier than other spiral galaxies in the Universe. Further, the team also suggests that Milky Way is much larger – at least 30 per cent larger than previous estimates.