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A map of the Milky Way made using the distribution of pulsing stars. Credit: J. Skowron/OGLE/Astronomical Observatory, University of Warsaw

A new 3D map of the Milky Way reveals the structure of our galaxy as never before, according to a study published this week in the journal Science.

Why it matters: By modeling the Milky Way, scientists can piece together the galaxy’s history, explaining why it looks the way it does and placing it in context with other galaxies observed around our own.

What they found: The new study confirms the Milky Way’s disk appears to be warped in an extreme way.

  • “We don't know for sure, but we think that the warp may have been caused by interactions with satellite galaxies…” Dorota Skowron, one of the study’s authors tells Axios via email. “Other possibilities point to interactions with intergalactic gas or dark matter.”
  • The team measured the distances from the Sun to more than 2,400 pulsing stars called Cepheids in order to map the galaxy from the inside out.
  • They found the Milky Way does have four arms arranged in a spiral structure, as earlier studies have suggested.

What’s next: Mapping variable stars like Cepheids on the other side of the Milky Way’s center could inform future research about the shape of our galaxy, astrophysicist Richard de Grijs, who didn’t take part in the new study, tells Axios via email.

  • If the other side of the disk is also warped “this 3D feature is most likely caused by dynamics and kinematics of the stars in the disk,” de Grijs, who recently co-authored another study mapping the galaxy with Cepheids, said.
  • “If this is only seen on one side, it may be due to the gravitational effects of or merger with a smaller ‘dwarf’ galaxy in the past.”
  • The bottom line: It isn't a complete map of the Milky Way, but it sets a foundation for understanding how our galaxy and others around it evolved.

Go deeper

Updated 56 mins ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: Tears, hugs, cheers as U.S. reacts to Chauvin guilty verdict

People react after the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

People across the U.S. rallied into the night Tuesday, cheering, hugging and crying tears of relief after a jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty in the murder of George Floyd.

Driving the news: After Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, Floyd family lawyer Ben Crump tweeted, "GUILTY! Painfully earned justice has finally arrived for George Floyd’s family. ... Justice for Black America is justice for all of America!"

Columbus police officer fatally shoots Black teenage girl

Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is investigating the fatal police shooting of a Black teenage girl in Columbus on Tuesday afternoon.

Of note: The shooting of the girl, identified by family members as Ma'Khia Bryant, 16, occurred just before the verdict was announced in the Minneapolis murder trial of former officer Derek Chauvin, and as the nation grapples with police reform.

European Super League faces collapse after English soccer teams quit

Fans of Chelsea Football Club protest the European Super League outside Stamford Bridge soccer stadium in London, England. Photo: Rob Pinney/Getty Images

The European Super League announced in a statement Tuesday night it's "proposing a new competition" and considering the next steps after all six English soccer clubs pulled out of the breakaway tournament.

Why it matters: The announcement that 12 of the richest clubs in England, Spain and Italy would start a new league was met with backlash from fans, soccer stars and politicians. The British government had threatened to pass legislation to stop it from going ahead.