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The Milky Way's impending galactic collision is already birthing new stars – Phys.org, Phys.org


    

        

The Milky Way's impending galactic collision is already birthing new stars
                A newfound cluster of young stars (blue star) sits on the periphery of the Milky Way. These stars probably formed from material originating from neighboring dwarf galaxies called the Magellanic Clouds. Credit: D. Nidever; NASA             

The outskirts of the Milky Way are home to the galaxy’s oldest stars. But astronomers have spotted something unexpected in this celestial retirement community: a flock of young stars.                                                

      

More surprising still, spectral analysis suggests that the infanthave an extragalactic origin. The stars seemingly formed not from material from the Milky Way, but from two nearbyknown as the Magellanic Clouds. Thosegalaxies

“This is a puny

January 8 at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Honolulu. They previouslyreported the discoveryof Price-Whelan 1 on December 5 inThe Astrophysical Journal

    

Identifying clusters of stars is tricky because our galaxy is chock-full of the radiant orbs. Some stars may appear to be close together in the sky but actually sit at drastically different distances from Earth. Other stars may temporarily neighbor one another but move on in opposite directions. Determining which stars are actually clustered together requires many precise measurements over time.

that compressed the Magellanic Stream gas. This drag, along with tidal forces from the Milky Way’s gravitational tug, condensed the gas enough to trigger star formation. Over time, the stars zoomed ahead of the surrounding gas and joined the Milky Way.

The stars’ presence presents a unique opportunity. Gauging the distance of gas from Earth is tricky and imprecise, so astronomers weren’t sure how far the Magellanic Stream was from reaching the Milky Way. The distance of stars, on the other hand, is comparatively trivial. Using the current positions and movements of stars in the cluster, the researchers predict that the edge of the Magellanic Stream is (**************************************************************, 0 light-years away from the Milky Way. That’s roughly half the distance previously predicted.

“If the Magellanic Stream is closer, especially the leading arm closest to our galaxy, then it’s likely to be incorporated into the Milky Way sooner than the current model predicts,” Nidever says. “Eventually, that gas will turn into new stars in the Milky Way’s disk. Right now, our galaxy is using up gas faster than its being replenished. This extra gas coming in will help us replenish that reservoir and make sure that our galaxy continues to thrive and form new stars. “

The updated distance to the Magellanic Stream will improve models of where the Magellanic Clouds have been and where they’re going, Price-Whelan says. The improved numbers could even settle a debate over whether the Magellanic Clouds have crossed through the Milky Way before. Finding an answer to that question will help astronomers better understand the history and properties of our galaxy.                                                                                                                         

                                        

Provided by Simons Foundation

                                        


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