Astronomers find young stars in the Milky Way while exploring a group of older stars near the center of the galaxy. The Universidad Andrés Bello based Chilean astronomers were surprised to discover the young stars as they thought that the center of the Milky Way only had an ancient star population.
The discovery was made while analyzing images from the VISTA telescope used by the European Southern Observatory, which uses infrared to pierce through the galaxy’s thick dust. The scientists went through years of images and data before finding the disc of young stars.
The newly found group of stars has not been completely explored yet as astronomers only happened upon them while studying a larger group of bright and very rare stars called Cepheids, which expand and contract while changing their brightness in the process. This process helps astronomers approximate their relative geometry and how far away they are from other celestial bodies. It is also why they are used to calculate distances from other stars.
The Cepheids belong to a constellation called Cepheus, located in the northern sky and it is one of the 48 constelations discovered and listed by the second century astronomer Ptolemy.
Of the 655 Cepheids that they found originally, 35 stars turned out to be classical Cepheids, meaning that they were quite young stars. To give you an idea of their ages, the youngest one is not older than 25 million years while none of the classical Cepheids are older than 100 million years according to Dante Minniti, the Study’s second author.
It is quite a remarkable find as, until this discovery, it was thought that the center of the Milky Way only contained older stars and that there were no materials left in the region for the use of creating new stars. The fact that the Milky Way has created these new celestial bodies baffled the astronomers that discovered them and there is still no explanation as to how they appeared.
The researchers will continue to study them in order to discover how exactly they were created and whether the region of the galaxy where they are located, thought to no longer produce new stars, might in fact still have that ability.
The fact that the new cluster of stars has been discovered right in the middle of our own galaxy, in a region that astronomers thought they had known and mapped out pretty well, only leaves us questioning what other unexplored nooks and corners of the Milky Way we might be missing. The team that found the Cepheids is still hard at work to figure that out for us.
Image source: www.pixabay.com