Astronomers take a giant leap toward mapping the Milky Way.


Astronomers have almost doubled the previous record for a distance measurement within our galaxy, paving the way for a complete galactic map .

Cartographing with VLBA

We can not see the Milky Way as we do other galaxies, and that's because we live inside it, although we can look along its edge while embedded in its disk.

However, in a study published in Science a team of researchers directly measured the distance to a star of the Milky Way, breaking the previous record for a direct distance measurement within our galaxy.

According to the lead author of the study, Alberto Sanna Max-Planck Institute of Radio Astronomy (MPIfr), "this means that, using VLBA, we can now accurately correlate the entire extent of our galaxy "

Earlier attempts to accurately observe and map the opposite side of the Milky Way have largely failed due to interstellar dust intertwined in the galactic plane, which prevents optical light from reaching us. But, unlike optical light, radio waves can pass unobstructed through interstellar dust .

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<p> The VLBA is not just a telescope but rather 10 radio antennas of 82 feet (25 meters) identical across North America, Hawaii and the Caribbean. </p>
<p> When connected together, these antennas form a massive interferometer with a baseline of nearly 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers), <strong> giving the VLBA sufficient resolving power to detect a baseball on the Moon </strong>. </p>
<p> Between 2014 and 2015, the team used VLBA to take radio observations of a large mass formation region called G007.47 00.05, located on the opposite side of our galaxy. Within the active regions of star formation, water and methanol molecules function as amplifiers of radio waves called masers (the radius equivalent of lasers for visual light). </p>
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