Vista Finds Ancient Stars In Milky Way's Heart For The First Time

Posted: Oct 13 2016, 9:14am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 13 2016, 9:16am CDT, in Latest Science News


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Ancient Stars Found in Milky Way's Heart for the First Time
While normally hidden behind obscuring dust, the infrared capabilities of VISTA allow to study the stars close to the galactic centre. Within this field of view astronomers detected several ancient stars, of a type known as RR Lyrae. As RR Lyrae stars typically reside in ancient stellar populations over 10 billion years old, this discovery suggests that the bulging centre of the Milky Way likely grew through the merging of primordial star clusters. Credit: ESO/VVV Survey/D. Minniti
  • This image, captured with the VISTA infrared survey telescope, as part of the Variables in the Via Lactea (VVV) ESO public survey, shows the central part of the Milky Way.

Ancient stars called RR Lyrae discovered in the centre of the Milky Way. The discovery suggests they may be the oldest star remains of the entire Milky Way

The Milky Way has ancient stars called RR Lyrae at its center. The discovery was made using the ESO's infrared VISTA telescope. These ancient stars are usually found in the center of ancient stellar populations which are more than 10 billion years old.

The discovery of this RR Lyrae in the Milky Way also suggests our galaxy grew from a merger of many primordial star clusters. They could also be the remains of the Milky Way’s oldest surviving stars or their clusters.

The RR Lyrae was found by a team led by Dante Minniti and Rodrigo Contreras Ramos, both from Chile. The researchers utilized observations from the VISTA infrared survey telescope to make assessments about the Milky Way.

The research team observed infrared and was able to get a sharper view of the region of the Milky Way where dozen of the ancient stars RR Lyrae reside.

RR Lyrae are known as variable stars which act as dense globular clusters. The brightness of each RR Lyrae fluctuates with regularity and astronomers can calculate the distance between them using their brightness.

However younger stars outshine these older ones and sometimes even dust accumulation leads to their obscuring. This explains why these newly discovered RR Lyrae were never before found in the center of the Milky Way. Until the Via Lactea (VVV) ESO public survey using infrared light these stars had remained hidden in plain sight.

The presence of these RR Lyrae in the center of the Milky Way will have very important implication about the galactic nuclei. The presence of these stars also further validates the theory that the Milky Way was formed initially from a number of globular clusters which merged.

This research was presented in a paper that appeared in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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