Half Of Our Galaxy Likely Made Of Matter From Other Galaxies

Posted: Jul 29 2017, 12:01am CDT | by , Updated: Jul 29 2017, 12:06am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Half of our Galaxy Likely Made of Matter from Other Galaxies
Pair of nearby galaxies with possible intergalactic transfer. Credit: Fred Herrmann

Milky Way including human beings may be made in part from extragalactic matter

Our galaxy Milky Way has a surprising origin.

Researchers from Northwestern University have found that almost half of everything in our galaxy Milky Way might have come from distant galaxies. It implies that humans may also be made in part from matter coming from other galaxies. This exchange of material is known as intergalactic transfer.

Using supercomputer simulations, researchers have recently looked at how intergalactic matter is transported across great distances and over long periods of time. They found that dust and gas from galaxies might be swept along by intergalactic winds. Powerful galactic winds transported atoms from one galaxy to another and this phenomenon is triggered by supernova explosions. When stars explode, they eject winds strong enough to grab gas from galaxies and to push it into the space. The fairly new approach could be critical for understanding how Milky Way and other galaxies evolved.

"This study transforms our understanding of how galaxies formed from the Big Bang," said Faucher-Giguère, a co-author of the study from Weinberg College.

“What this new mode implies is that up to one-half of the atoms around us – including in the solar system, on Earth and in each one of us – comes not from our own galaxy but from other galaxies, up to one million light years away.”

Simulations showed that winds produced by explosions of dying stars can fling matter out galaxies. The matter can travel for billions of years across intergalactic space after leaving their host galaxy and then it enter into different galaxies.

While the findings surprise researchers, they deepen our understanding of Big Bang explosion that occurred billions of years ago.

“Given how much of the matter out of which we formed may have come from other galaxies, we could consider ourselves space travelers or extragalactic immigrants," said lead researcher Daniel Anglés-Alcázar, Northwestern's astrophysics center, CIERA (Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics). "It is likely that much of the Milky Way's matter was in other galaxies before it was kicked out by a powerful wind, traveled across intergalactic space and eventually found its new home in the Milky Way."

Next, the team is planning to collaborate with observational astronomers who are working with the Hubble Space Telescope to test the predictions of intergalactic transfer.

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