Spanish astrophysicists discover a new region of the Milky Way.
A team of researchers from the Spanish Astrobiology Center (CAB) has presented the most accurate map of the Milky Way to date, and described the existence of the “Cepheus spur,” a formation of blue stars hotter than the sun that had remained hidden until now. The team put together the map of the Earth’s “solar neighborhood” using the Gaia telescope of the European Space Agency, detailing the spiral arms of the stars that make up our galaxy. These include Orion, where the Solar System is located; Perseus, located at the outer edge of the galaxy, and Sagittarius, towards the center of the Milky Way.
The Cepheus spur went undetected because of the previous lack of detail in the “stellar catalog” that the researchers have just updated. The new map they have drawn “has 20,000 classified celestial objects,” says Pantaleoni González. “A density of stars can be observed in a space that was apparently empty before.” Their work was published in the Monthly Notices of Britain’s Royal Astronomical Society in March. For the scientists, one important aspect of the newly discovered spur is its consistent motion, which shows it is not a random alignment of stars but a structure sitting above the “galactic disk,” the thin, circular distribution of stars, dust and gas that often exhibit beautiful spiral patterns. This position could be caused by contractions of a kind observed in other neighboring galaxies but that had not been seen in the Milky Way. “Possibly these are oscillations of the galactic disk resulting from the convulsive evolution of the galaxy. Perhaps they are the echoes of collisions with other galaxies billions of years ago, or maybe it’s something else,” says Pantaleoni González.
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