Newsflash: The Milky Way Is Not Flat

"The galaxy is not flat, researchers show in new 3D model of the Milky Way":

Yay for sensationalistic headlines. 😏 No, no one was asserting the Milky Way is "flat" flat; there's no "Flat Galaxy Society" out there posting YouTube videos where they make their case (at least, I don't THINK there is).

The question, rather, was whether the Milky Way was essentially a pancake. Unfortunately, we can't "see" the Milky Way the way we can other galaxies, because we're IN it, and it's going to be a little while before wen can send a probe out at superluminal speeds to snap a pic from beyond the galaxy's edge.

So scientists used Cepheid variable stars to map out a fairly direct series of measurements of the shape of the galaxy. And it turns out, it's shaped like a sombrero that got warped. Possibly because someone sat on it, or stuffed it in the overhead bin of a plane, or left it out in the blazing summer heat for several days.


Originally posted on Facebook. (The comments to this post have been fantastic.)