The Milky Way is warped?

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The uncertainty of science: Distance data of more than 1,300 Cepheid variable stars gathered by the Wide-field Infrared Explorer (WISE) space telescope now suggests to astronomers that the disk of the Milky Way galaxy is warped.

Trying to determine the real shape of our galaxy is like standing in a Sydney garden and trying to determine the shape of Australia. But, for the past 50 years there have been indications that the hydrogen clouds in the Milky Way are warped. The new map shows that the warped Milky Way disc also contains young stars. It confirms that the warped spiral pattern is caused by torque from the spinning of the Milky Way’s massive inner disc of stars.

This research is good and helpful in getting us closer to a real picture of our Milky Way galaxy. However, need I say that this result carries with it a great deal of uncertainty? Or should I let my kind readers outline for me the many aspects of this research that leave me with doubts?

I think I want to do the latter. Where do you think the uncertainties are in this research? What assumptions are they making? Where is their data sparse or weak? Feel free to list them in the comments.



  • Jason Hillyer

    This stood out to me: “”Most of the matter in the Milky Way is dark matter, it’s an intrinsic part of our universe,””. As you have pointed out several times, we don’t actually know this. However, the article does say “…we have absolutely no idea what dark matter is or even where it is.”

    Also: 1339 stars is a very small sample size, as there are several hundred billion stars in our home galaxy.

  • pzatchok

    I look at it as a giant flexible gyroscope.

    The center tilts back and forth over billions of years, like a top, and the flexible edges are just trying to follow along.

  • Edward

    From the article: “Astronomers have observed a dozen other galaxies which showed similar progressively twisted spiral patterns in their outer regions. So our Milky Way’s twists are rare but not unique.

    Apparently, it is possible for the conclusion to be real.

    From the article: “Our research showing the shape of the Milky Way, could help us determine how dark matter is distributed around our galaxy.

    This means that the distribution of dark matter is not yet known in order to explain the speeds of stars in the outer regions of galaxies. I am not yet convinced of the dark matter hypothesis, as it is a made-up phenomenon (not observed, as is usual in science) that is intended to explain another phenomenon. Generally, we do not put much store in hypotheses, but astronomers seem to have convinced themselves of this hypothesis even though it does not yet seem to be modeled in a way to explain the anomaly that it is supposed to explain.

    If it takes something like dark matter to explain the warping, what happens if the scientists are unable to observe the existence of dark matter?

    Indeed, they may as well attribute these phenomena to God. Just because we haven’t yet observed him (he does not knock on everyone’s door), does not mean that he does not exist.*

    I hope this helped with your questions of uncertainties and assumptions. I kind of assume that the data is good and that our galaxy could be warped.

    * I read Lawrence Krauss’s book, “A Universe from Nothing.” He wrote from the standpoint that there is no God (not just because he does not want that to be the explanation, but he seems to be an atheist), because if God created the universe, then you have to figure out who created God. Some problems that I have with his book is that he starts with the assumption that some things already existed, such as space, time, and the laws of physics, so his universe does not come strictly from nothing. (Where did all this come from? Probably the same place/person/deity/law of physics that created God. And where did that come from? You see the problem, right? )

    However, despite his atheism — or perhaps because of it — he does not realize that he may have found God, who is, by definition, the creator of everything.

    [*** SPOILER ALERT! *** Read no further if you don’t want to know that the butler did it. Oh, drat. So much for the spoiler alert.]

    He concludes that if you have a region with whole bunch of nothing in a universe that already has time, space, and the laws of physics as well as a whole lot of energy throughout (such as dark energy), then a whole lot of something will spontaneously appear due to gravity. Compare that with God, who is the creator of everything, and we see that God and gravity are the same thing. Gravity is God. It/He surrounds us, influences everything we do, has His own law (or set of laws), and has the whole world in His “hands.” Thus, we meet Him every day but merely fail to recognize Him, probably due to familiarity. (My prayer tonight: “Dear God, please bless the water behind the dam that, due to gravity/You, rushes through the turbine to generate electricity to run my alarm clock to wake me up at the right time tomorrow morning.)

    Yeah, something is warped, all right, but it may not be the galaxy. It might be my imagination.

  • pzatchok

    My guess is its not dark matter causing the warp.

    Why, because the very same thing is happening in other galaxies. Exactly the same way. So the dark matter theory would mean that dark matter is affecting them exactly the same way.
    Not very likely.

    At this size and time frame, galaxies act like a semi-solid matter.
    They are not perfectly balanced so they would exhibit a wobble or tilt. Just like every other spinning object does.
    If the outer edge acts like a semi-solid and flexes a little behind the wobble of the spinning center then this would explain the warped look.

    Dark matter not needed.

  • wayne

    Jordan Peterson –
    “Atheist Scientists vs Christian Fundamentalists”
    (excerpted from Maps of Meaning 05: Story and Meta-story)

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