Astronomers discover a massive family of stars in the Milky Way

Shane McGlaun - Jan 16, 2021, 10:45am CST
Astronomers discover a massive family of stars in the Milky Way

Glancing at the image below, it’s clear that there are huge numbers of stars in the Milky Way. Astronomers say that the galaxy is filled with streams of stars, but one of those streams appears to have nearly 500 stars inside. Astronomers, on a new study, have discovered 8292 stellar streams in the galaxy.

While clusters of stars appear in clusters, as the name implies, streams form linear patterns. Streams are named Theja, which is the Greek goddess of sight and heavenly light. Astronomers on the study used data taken from the ESA Gaia space telescope to specifically study Theia 456 and discovered that 468 stars in the stream were born simultaneously.

The entire elongated stream of stars moves in the same direction as a group across the sky. Study author Jeff Andrews from Northwestern University said that most stellar clusters are formed together. Andrews says what’s exciting about Theia 456 is that it’s not a small clump of stars together; it’s very long and stretched out.

The astronomer also notes that there are relatively few streams nearby that are young and as widely dispersed. Stars typically form in clusters, which are spherical groups. Recent data has revealed other star patterns, including the long streams seen in Theia 456, which spans 570 light-years across the Milky Way.

It took so long for astronomers to discover the massive galactic stream because it lives in the galactic plane hiding it from astronomers. The stream is easily cloaked by the 400 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy as the galactic plane is where most of the galaxy’s mass exists. Astronomers note that all the stars within 456 have a similar composition containing about the same amount of iron. The composition suggests they formed together about 100 million years ago.


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