The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy. More specifically, it is a barred spiral galaxy, meaning that within its central region, there is a bar shape off of which the spirals emanate. About two-thirds of spiral galaxies are barred spirals, and astronomers have thought this difference is just a variance in how density waves cluster stars in a galaxy. But a new study suggests that the bar of the Milky Way may have been caused by an ancient collision with another galaxy.Continue reading “Did the Last Great Galactic Merger Create the Milky Way's Bar?”
The Milky Way is older than astronomers thought, or part of it is. A newly-published study shows that part of the disk is two billion years older than we thought. The region, called the thick disk, started forming only 0.8 billion years after the Big Bang.Continue reading “Part of the Milky Way Is Much Older Than Previously Believed”
As we learn more about the cosmos, it’s interesting how some of the greatest discoveries continue to happen close to home. This is expected to continue well into the future, where observations of Cosmic Dawn and distant galaxies will take place alongside surveys of the outer Solar System and our galaxy. In this latter respect, the ESA’s Gaia observatory will continue to play a vital role. As an astrometry mission, Gaia has been to determine the proper position and radial velocity of over a billion stars to create a three-dimensional map of the Milky Way.
Using data from Gaia’s third early Data Release (eDR3) and Legacy Survey data – from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) – an international team of astronomers created a new map of the Milky Way’s outer disk. In the process, they discovered evidence of structures in this region that include the remnants of fossil spiral arms. This discovery will shed new light on the formation and history of the Milky Way and may lead to a breakthrough in our understanding of galactic evolution.Continue reading “A Detailed Scan of the Milky Way Finds Possible “Fossil” Spiral Arms”
In 2005 astronomers found a dense grouping of stars in the Virgo constellation. It looked like a star cluster, except further surveys showed that some of the stars are moving towards us, and some are moving away. That finding was unexpected and suggested the Stream was no simple star cluster.
A 2019 study showed that the grouping of stars is no star cluster at all; instead, it’s the hollowed-out shell of a dwarf spheroidal galaxy that merged with the Milky Way. It’s called the Virgo Overdensity (VOD) or the Virgo Stellar Stream.
A new study involving some of the same researchers shows how and when the merger occurred and identifies other shells from the same merger.Continue reading “Astronomers Find the Hollowed-Out Shell of a Dwarf Galaxy that Collided With the Milky Way Billions of Years Ago”
Modern professional astronomers aren’t much like astronomers of old. They don’t spend every suitable evening with their eyes glued to a telescope’s eyepiece. You might be more likely to find them in front of a super-computer, working with AI and deep learning methods.
One group of researchers employed those methods to find a whole new collection of stars in the Milky Way; a group of stars which weren’t born here.Continue reading “A Stellar Stream of Stars, Stolen from Another Galaxy”