When we think about a map of the Milky Way we have an image of a flat disk with several spiral arms. The new study, published in the journal Science, shows that the shape of our galaxy is different than we thought.
“The problem astronomers have typically had in studying the Milky Way is that, because we reside in it, it is hard to see the parts that are far away — we cannot move outside the Galaxy and look at it,” said Dr. Radek Poleski, a postdoctoral researcher at the Ohio State University and the University of Warsaw’s Astronomical Observatory.
“What we were able to do in this study that hasn’t been done before is to take a very large sample of objects — uniformly selected and organized — to build a model of the Milky Way.”
You might be tempted to think that modelling the shape of hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way based on 2400 sample might not be representative, however please remember that geodesy and cartography are all about modelling phenomena based on limited survey points and interpolating or extrapolating the results to the entire population. It’s the way maps are made. It’s interesting to see how the principles of cartography can be applied to map things far beyond our world.