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.

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Zeta, now a Category 2 Hurricane, makes landfall on Louisiana coast

The probable path of Zeta, per the National Hurricane Center. Photo: NHC/NOAA

Zeta, classified as a "significant" Category 2 hurricane, made landfall along the southeastern coast of Louisiana on Wednesday evening, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The state of play: Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) requested a pre-landfall Emergency Declaration in a letter to President Trump on Tuesday. The hurricane is producing 110-mph maximum sustained winds and stronger gusts. The core of Zeta — including its destructive eyewall — moved ashore near Cocodrie.

Supreme Court won't expedite Pennsylvania GOP's request to block mail-in ballot extension

Amy Coney Barrett being sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts. Photo: Fred Schilling/Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States via Getty Images

The Supreme Court voted 5-3 on Wednesday to deny a bid from Pennsylvania Republicans to expedite their request to shorten the deadline for receiving mail-in ballots. Newly-confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not participate in the decision.

Why it matters: A lower court ruling allowing ballots to be counted until 5 p.m. on Nov. 6, as long as they are postmarked by Election Day, will remain in place for now.

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Europe faces "stronger and deadlier" coronavirus wave

Paris under curfew. Photo: Kiran Ridley/Getty Images

The coronavirus is still winning: Now even Germany is entering another national lockdown, joined by France.

Why it matters: France has been "overpowered by a second wave,” President Emmanuel Macron said in a nationally televised address today. Macron said the "new wave will be stronger and deadlier" than the first.