New research suggests that our Milky Way galaxy may have a different shape than we thought, Space.com reports.
Over the past few years, astronomers have concluded that galaxies have three basic shapes: elliptical, irregular, and spiral. Most known spiral galaxies have two main "arms" that branch out and split into smaller ones.
The traditional portrayal of the Milky Way was that it was a galaxy with four large spiral arms extending out from a centralized cluster of stars. This made our spiral galaxy look like an extremely rare, oddly shaped galaxy having four major arms.
However, scientists believe that this idea may be wrong. A team of astronomers has published a new study that suggests we've been wrong about the shape of the Milky Way for decades, as our galaxy has two main arms, like the rest of spiral galaxies.
The discovery, which could change our understanding of the Milky Way, came when scientists with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and National Astronomical Observatories analyzed multiple sources of astronomical data to understand the true shape of our galaxy better.