It seems that the discovery of the galactic petrified remnant of the early Milky Way has taken place.
Terzan 5 is 12 billion years old. Yet it looks none the worse for wear. It doesn’t appear to be related to Knowhere, the giant celestial region at the edge of the universe as seen in Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie.
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Instead, this fossil galaxy is made of stuff that is present 19,000 light years from our home planet. Terzan 5 was detected some 40 odd years ago. It was supposed to be a globular group of stars in the Milky Way, yet now we know better.
The Hubble Space Telescope along with a couple of other ground-based telescopes were used to take pictures of the region in outer space. The study concerning this was published this week.
Terzan 5 is actually a stellar system that is a fossilized remnant of galaxy formation. It may have been the earliest components of our galaxy. Yet it is unlike any other galactic fossil found up until now.
Like globular clusters, galactic fossils bear the stamps of time. They show the way back to the times when the galaxies were formed.
These galactic globular clusters can be found in the halo of our Milky Way. They are also present in the protuberance at its center. They can be traced back 12.5 billion years into the past. Within these fossil remnants can be found the very history of the universe.
In fact, they show the universe like it was when it was in its infancy and just a billion years old. However, Terzan 5 is different. Within it are stars from two time periods. One of these is 12 billion years old while the other one is 4.5 billion years old. These stars are composed of different elements.
Thus a gap of 7 billion years was there between the two bursts that look place. After the first burst, there was a supernova explosion. Terzan 5 was so massive way back then that it didn’t eject the iron-rich gas of the explosion.
Instead it retained it in order to form new stars 7 billion years later. Terzan 5 didn’t start out massive and it isn’t very big now either. It has undergone changes in its size during its history.
The fact that it is still intact as a galactic fossil speaks volumes about the evolution of Terzan 5. This living fossil must not have been so massive to begin with which is why it survived at the edge. Studying it will lend astronomers novel insights into the past of our Milky Way galaxy.