With the help of Twitter, two astronomers claimed on Tuesday that an enormous X-shaped structure composed of stars is located at the center of the Milky Way. The findings are now available in the Astronomical Journal.

“There was controversy about whether the X-shaped structure existed,” points out the study’s co-author Dustin Lang, a research associate at the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto. “But our paper gives a good view of the core of our own galaxy. I think it has provided pretty good evidence for the existence of the X-shaped structure.”

This X-shaped structure is an important component of the Milky Way’s bulge, which looks like a rectangular box or peanut. The researchers reanalyzed data taken by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE).

There are two ways the bulge could have formed. One theory says that the bulge formed without any external influences. This suggests that the galaxy did not experience any major merging events, but if it did, its shape would have been different.

x-shaped structure

WISE allsky map of the sky showing the Milky Way Galaxy. The central circle indicates the center of the galaxy and the inset shows an enhanced view of the x-shaped structure. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech; D. Lang/Dunlap Institute

The theory explains that the bulge formed when the Milky Way merged with other galaxies.

Studying the bulge will reveal what caused the shape of our galaxy, says the study’s lead author Melissa Ness, a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg.

This study is just one of the recent research regarding the Milky Way. Another study reveals that red giants, which were previously thought to have permanently disappeared in the galaxy, are actually still there but are just too faint to be spotted.

Scientists from Georgia Institute of Technology claim that the red giant stars in the last stage of their life lost a lot of their mass due to repeated collisions with gaseous disks at the Milky Way’s center. The findings are published on June 1 in The Astrophysical Journal.