The Milky Way is 50 percent larger than previously thought, says an international research team led by Heidi Jo Newberg at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In a classic case of turning existing data into knowledge, the team reexamined findings from 2002 and drew a radically different conclusion. The 2oo2 Sloan Digital Sky Survey noted the presence of a ring of stars extending outward from the borders of the Milky Way: Newberg's team has determined that the ring is actually part of the Milky Way.
The reassessment hinges on a theory that the plane of the galactic disk isn't as flat as once believed. Instead the plane is corrugated--it ripples. That accounts for a previously observed periodic lack of star density in the already established galactic plane--and allows scientists to posit an extension of the plane that includes the known ring and perhaps others beyond it.
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