Astronomers have uncovered a new mystery of the Milky Way

Astronomers have accumulated quite advanced knowledge about the galaxies that litter our Universe. But ours, the Milky Way, still holds secrets. He also just discovered a new one: a ring of metal-rich stars that surrounds the galactic bar.

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[EN VIDÉO] Milky Way: galaxy formation simulation
This film shows a computer simulation of a galaxy similar to the Milky Way. The film rewinds simulated time from 13 billion years ago to the present day. The main galaxy grows as many smaller galaxies merge with it. Hercules looks like one of the small galaxies that merged with the Milky Way early on. © Ted Mackereth, EAGLE

When we look at the sky at night, we rely on our own strength. eyes to reveal to us the beauty of the universe. astronomers, they first came up with telescopes that opened up new horizons for them. Today, they even have tools that allow them to see beyond the visible. In the region ofinfrared, For example. And thus overcome the barriers of dust that have long hidden the heart of our Milky Way.

Let us remember that our Earth floats somewhere in the sleeve of our spiral galaxy. In the plane of your disk. It is difficult in these conditions to perceive the structure Milky Way. Especially its internal structure. But over the past decade, astronomers have taken advantage of a large amount of new observational data to back up their simulations and build a model that matches reality. The so-called barred galaxy. in which the group isstars centers – the rod – which comes out of the bulge – the bulb.

Today some Researchers at the Max Planck Institute (Germany) add new details to this description. Thanks to research carried out in wavelengths from near infrared on the database Apogee missions. This one studies at the highest resolution all stellar components of the Milky Way. By combining this data with data obtained by the Gaia mission, which measures positions and movements out of a billion stars, the explorers were almost there. All they needed were state-of-the-art computer models to peer beyond the galactic bulge and explore areas hitherto inaccessible. What to discover in a new way orbits of the 30,000 stars located in the inner regions of the Milky Way.

Trace the history of the formation of the Milky Way

From there, astronomers built star density maps, metallicity and the age of this region of the Milky Way. Maps showing around the central bar of our galaxy ring structure richer metals — understand in elements harder thanhydrogen and helium – and consists of younger stars about 7 billion years old, concentrated in the direction of the galactic plane.

Similar rings have already been observed inside other galaxies. But researchers still wondered if we had it. Now they have an answer.

An answer that informs them a little more about the story the formation of our Milky Way. Astronomers estimate that the galactic bar formed at least 7 billion years ago. The stars that make up the recently observed ring must have continued to form due to the influx gas after installing this bar.

The question remains unanswered about a possible connection between the ring, discovered by researchers from the Max Institute plank And spiral arms Milky Way. Is gas flowing inward into our galaxy to fuel star formation in the core of the ring, as might be the case in other spiral galaxies? To answer this question, astronomers will need not only more data, but more accurate models.

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