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Scientists discover a Fossil Relic of early Milky Way harboring stars of hugely different ages

These similarities could make Terzan 5 a fossilised relic of galaxy formation, representing one of the earliest building blocks of the Milky Way

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Milky Way Galaxy. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.
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LONDON, Sept 08, 2016: An international team of researchers has found that a stellar system classified as a globular cluster for the 40-odd years since its detection actually has properties uncommon for a globular cluster that make it the ideal candidate for a living fossil from the early days of the Milky Way.

The cluster, known as Terzan 5 — 19,000 light-years from Earth- harbours stars of hugely different ages — an age-gap of roughly seven billion years and bridges the gap in understanding between our galaxy’s past and its present, the study said.

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“Such galactic fossils allow astronomers to reconstruct an important piece of the history of our Milky Way,” explained lead author of the study Francesco Ferraro from University of Bologna in Italy.

While the properties of Terzan 5 are uncommon for a globular cluster, they are very similar to the stellar population which can be found in the galactic bulge, the tightly packed central region of the Milky Way.

These similarities could make Terzan 5 a fossilised relic of galaxy formation, representing one of the earliest building blocks of the Milky Way.

“Terzan 5 could represent an intriguing link between the local and the distant Universe, a surviving witness of the Galactic bulge assembly process,” Ferraro said.

The team scoured data from the Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Wide Field Camera 3 on board Hubble, as well as from a suite of other ground-based telescopes.

They found compelling evidence that there are two distinct kinds of stars in Terzan 5 which not only differ in the elements they contain, but have an age-gap of roughly seven billion years.

The ages of the two populations indicate that the star formation process in Terzan 5 was not continuous, but was dominated by two distinct bursts of star formation.

“This requires the Terzan 5 ancestor to have large amounts of gas for a second generation of stars and to be quite massive. At least 100 million times the mass of the Sun,” co-author of the study Davide Massari from National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) , Italy.

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Its unusual properties make Terzan 5 the ideal candidate for a living fossil from the early days of the Milky Way, said the study published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Somehow Terzan 5 has managed to survive being disrupted for billions of years, and has been preserved as a remnant of the distant past of the Milky Way.

The researchers believe that this discovery paves the way for a better and more complete understanding of galaxy assembly. (IANS)

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Astronomers Capture 15,000 Galaxies Using Hubble Telescope

Hubble can provide some of the most sensitive space-based ultraviolet observations possible.

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Hubble Telescope
Hubble Telescope. Flickr

On one of the largest panoramic views of star birth, astronomers using the ultraviolet vision of NASAs Hubble telescope have assembled an image that features approximately 15,000 galaxies, about 12,000 of which are forming stars.

This image is a portion of the GOODS-North field, which is located in the northern constellation Ursa Major, NASA said in a statement Thursday.

The image straddles the gap between the very distant galaxies, which can only be viewed in infrared light, and closer galaxies, which can be seen across a broad spectrum.

Galaxy, hubble telescope
Representational Image of Galaxy. Wikimedia Commons.

The light from distant star-forming regions in remote galaxies started out as ultraviolet, but the expansion of the universe shifted the light into infrared wavelengths.

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By comparing images of star formation in the distant and nearby universe, astronomers glean a better understanding of how nearby galaxies grew from small clumps of hot, young stars long ago, NASA said.

Because Earth’s atmosphere filters most ultraviolet light, Hubble can provide some of the most sensitive space-based ultraviolet observations possible. (IANS)