Several satellite galaxies orbiting the Milky Way show a bizarre alignment. They appear to be positioned on a large, thin, orbiting plane known as the “plane of satellites.” Astronomers have been baffled by this apparent impossibility for more than 50 years, leading many to question the standard cosmological model.

A new study by an international team of scientists has now discovered that the plane of satellites in the Milky Way is a cosmological oddity. They used data from the European Space Agency’s GAIA space observatory on a supercomputer to project the past and future orbits of the satellite galaxies. They witnessed the formation and dissolution of the plane of galaxies in a few hundred million years or a very small blink of an eye in cosmic time.

Previous studies based on computer simulations did not take into account the distances of satellites from the center of the Milky Way, making the virtual satellite systems appear significantly rounder than the real ones.

They discovered numerous digital galaxies with a plane of satellite galaxies extremely close to the plane viewed by telescopes, taking this into account.

Scientists noted, “This removes one of the main objections to the Standard Model of cosmology and means that the concept of cold dark matter remains the cornerstone of our understanding of the Universe.”

Magazine reference:

  1. Sawala, T., Cautun, M., Frenk, C. et al. The plane of satellites of the Milky Way corresponds to ΛCDM. Wet Astron (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41550-022-01856-z