'River of Stars' Streaming Through the Milky Way Was Hiding in Plain Sight for 1 Billion Years
In this stereographic projection,the Milky Way curves around the entire image in an arc,with the newly discovered river of stars displayed in red and covering almost the entire southern Galactic hemisphere.
Credit: Astronomy & Astrophysics

十亿年前了。a cluster of stars 澳门金莎官方游戏formed in our galaxy.从那时起,that cluster has whipped four long circles around the edge of the银河系.在那个时候,the Milky Way's gravity has stretched that cluster out from a blob into a long stellar stream.马上,the stars are passing relatively close to Earth,just about 330 light-years away.And scientists say that river of stars could help determine the mass of the entire Milky Way..

Astronomers have seen these stars before,mixed in with lots of stars all around them.但直到现在,they didn't realize the stars were part of a group.河流,which is 1,300 light-years long and 160 light-years wide,winds through the Milky Way's vast,dense star field.但是3D-mapping data from Gaia,a European Space Agency spacecraft,showed that the stars in the stream moved together at roughly the same speed and in the same direction.

"Identifying nearby disk streams is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.Astronomers have been looking at,并且通过,this new stream for a long time,as it covers most of the night sky,but only now realize it is there,它是巨大的,and shockingly close to the sun," João Alves,an astronomer at the University of Vienna and second author of the paper,said in a statement.[Large Numbers That Define Our Universe]

Though space is full of these恒星流,they're often difficult to study because they're well-camouflaged amidst surrounding stars.通常情况下,these stellar streams are also much farther away.

"Finding things close to home is very useful,it means they are not too faint nor too blurred for further detailed exploration,[an] astronomer's dream," Alves said.

Scientists suspect that star clusters,like the one that eventually became this stellar stream can reveal how galaxies get their stars.但在一个大的,heavy galaxy like the Milky Way,those clusters usually end up shredded,with gravity pulling individual stars in different directions.[Amazing Astronomy: Victorian-Era Illustrations of the Heavens]

This stream is big enough though,and heavy enough,that it's remained intact (albeit stretched) in the billion years it has circled the galactic center.And there may be more stars in the stream than those found in the initial Gaia data.

Originally published on澳门金沙官方游戏.