JAN 29, 2017 10:17 AM PST

The Milky Way's Most Distant Stars May be Stolen From Other Galaxies

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

The Milky Way is full of stars; some are closer to our Solar System than others, but some of the most distant that still reside in the Milky Way lurk some 300,000 light years away from the Earth. As the Milky Way itself is only around 100,000 light years across, these stars reside well beyond the visible spiral disks of our galaxy, and as a result, researchers from Harvard believe that they weren’t always a part of our galaxy, rather they could be stolen.

Even though they’re distant, they’re still a part of the Milky Way because of the forces of gravity, which work like the glue between celestial objects floating around in the middle of nothingness. In a paper that’s now available on arXiv.org and have been accepted by the Astrophysical Journal, these astronomers detail a grand total of 11 stars; half of which may have been snatched from another galaxy while the two passed by each other at a time in the distant past.

An artist's impression of the Sagittarius Stream, caused by the gravitational forces at work.

Image Credit: Gabriel Pérez Díaz, Martínez-Delgado et al, 2003 and 2001, University of Geneva, IAC

The Sagittarius Dwarf galaxy is the supposed source, a miniature galaxy that surrounds the much larger Milky Way along with several other miniature galaxies, but nevertheless, they contain so many stars that larger forces of gravity can easily pull them away if given the chance.

Building off that idea, it just so happens that they get that chance quite often, as many of the smaller galaxies are orbiting our own, which allows the stars to be tugged away over time by gravitational forces. These gravitational forces have been pulling the dwarf galaxy apart for billions of years, creating what we know today as the Sagittarius "Stream."

Lead author Marion Dierickx from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and his colleagues used specially-crafted computer models to study the Milky Way and its smaller surrounding galaxies over the course of 8 billion years. These models revealed that at least 5 of these distant Milky Way stars would have originally belonged to the Sagittarius Dwarf galaxy, as they were slowly ripped away over time. The other 6 would have most likely originated from another source, one that hasn’t yet been identified.

Future space observation missions could help provide insight, as our space telescopes and observatories are always being upgraded with more powerful sensory equipment and better processing power. It’s only a matter of time before we discover the secrets behind the manifest of our own galaxy.

Source: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA)

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
AUG 10, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Researchers Confirm Exoplanet at Half the Mass of Venus
AUG 10, 2021
Researchers Confirm Exoplanet at Half the Mass of Venus
An international collaboration of researchers has identified a rocky exoplanet half the size of Venus, making it the low ...
AUG 19, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
A "Wright Brothers Moment" for Nuclear Fusion
AUG 19, 2021
A "Wright Brothers Moment" for Nuclear Fusion
According to a Wednesday press release, physicists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF), part of Lawrence Livermore N ...
SEP 20, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Researchers Find the Source of Gamma Rays in the 'Empty' Sky
SEP 20, 2021
Researchers Find the Source of Gamma Rays in the 'Empty' Sky
Gamma rays have been observed in parts of the sky that seem to be 'empty,' so researchers have long-wondered about their ...
OCT 19, 2021
Space & Astronomy
A Glimpse at the Death of Our Solar System
OCT 19, 2021
A Glimpse at the Death of Our Solar System
One of the most difficult aspects of studying space is that most things, on the astronomical scale, happen very slowly. ...
OCT 25, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Spaceflight Seems to Raise Levels of Circulating Cell-Free Mitochondrial DNA
OCT 25, 2021
Spaceflight Seems to Raise Levels of Circulating Cell-Free Mitochondrial DNA
Spaceflight is being marketed as a tourist opportunity for extremely wealthy people, and lengthy space missions that cou ...
DEC 02, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Car Emissions Could Be a Much Larger Source of Ammonia Pollution than We Realize
DEC 02, 2021
Car Emissions Could Be a Much Larger Source of Ammonia Pollution than We Realize
COVID-19 lockdowns made stark changes to Earth’s air pollution. In the early stages of the pandemic, people starte ...
Loading Comments...