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Scientists: Milky Way Merged with Another Smaller Galaxy Roughly 10 Billion Years Ago

The Milky Way, home to our sun and billions of other stars, merged with another smaller galaxy in a colossal cosmic collision roughly 10 billion years ago

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Milky Way, Galaxy, Scientists
FILE - A view of the Milky Way from an area of Puyehue National Park near Osorno City, Chile, May 8, 2008. VOA

The Milky Way, home to our sun and billions of other stars, merged with another smaller galaxy in a colossal cosmic collision roughly 10 billion years ago, scientists said Monday, based on data from the Gaia space observatory.

The union of the Milky Way and the so-called dwarf galaxy Gaia-Enceladus increased our galaxy’s mass by about a quarter and triggered a period of accelerated star formation lasting about 2 to 4 billion years, the scientists said.

“Yes, indeed it was a pivotal moment,” said astronomer Carme Gallart of Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias in Spain, lead author of the research published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Galaxies of all types including the Milky Way began to form relatively soon after the Big Bang explosion that marked the beginning of the universe some 13.8 billion years ago, but were generally smaller than those seen today and were forming stars at a rapid rate. Subsequent galactic mergers were instrumental in configuring galaxies existing now.

Milky Way, Galaxy, Scientists
The merger of the Milky Way and the dwarf galaxy Gaia-Enceladus roughly 10 billion years ago, left, and the current appearance of the Milky Way galaxy, right, are shown in this artist’s conception, July 22, 2019. VOA

High-precision measurements of the position, brightness and distance of around a million stars within 6,500 light years of the sun, obtained by the Gaia space telescope operated by the European Space Agency, helped pinpoint stars present before the merger and those that formed afterward.

Certain stars with higher content of elements other than hydrogen or helium arose in the Milky Way, they found, and others with lower such content originated in Gaia-Enceladus, owing to its smaller mass.

While the merger was dramatic and helped shape what the Milky Way has become, it was not a star-destroying calamity.

“This crash was big in cosmic terms, but if it was happening now, we could probably not even notice at a human or solar system level,” Gallart said.

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“The distances between stars in a galaxy are so huge — a galaxy is basically empty space — that the two galaxies intermix, change their global shape, more star formation may happen in one, and maybe the small one stops forming stars.

“But the individual stars in each galaxy don’t collide, don’t really notice the force of the event in a way that affects their individual evolution or the evolution of the planetary systems that may be attached to them,” Gallart said.

The Milky Way, spiral shaped with a central bar-like structure composed of stars, includes 100 to 400 billion stars, including the sun, which formed roughly 4.5 billion years ago, far after the merger. (VOA)

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Czech Scientists Find way to Extract Water From Air

The project will be showcased at the Dubai Expo 2020, to be held between October 2020 and April 2021

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Scientists, Water, Air
A team of scientists from the Technical University in Prague have said they found a method of extracting water from air using an autonomous solar-powered system. Pixabay

A team of scientists from the Technical University in Prague have said they found a method of extracting water from air using an autonomous solar-powered system.

The first prototype of Solar Air Water Earth Resource (SAWER) has the capacity to produce 100 litres of drinking water per day anywhere on the planet, even in the desert.

The experts installed SAWER in the United Arab Emirates’ town of Sweihan, located about 70 km east of Abu Dhabi.

“It is not a revolutionary process, but an unusual one,” civil and environmental engineering professor Tomas Matuska told Efe news, adding it used dehumidifiers that are often employed in the food industry.

Matuska explained that the two-stage system consists of a desiccant that holds water molecules in its surface and then an air heater produces water vapour to be taken back to the surface.

A group of 12 scientists started the project in the Czech Republic’s capital in 2017 and created the first prototype that can be transported in two six-meter-long cargo containers.

One of the containers holds the production unit including distilled water equipment, while the second contains the accumulators to boost heat and cold processes, as well as energy control systems.

The experts installed SAWER in the United Arab Emirates’ town of Sweihan, located about 70 km east of Abu Dhabi. Pixabay

Photovoltaic modules are placed on the two containers in order to produce the energy necessary to start the process.

The movable device aims to establish timely living conditions, or to facilitate civil-military operations in inhospitable places requiring an emergency water supply.

“The test (near Abi Dhabi) will last about six months, because we want to have information with data from summer, autumn and winter,” said Matuska, who is part of the team that developed SAWER in Prague.

The device will be tested in the laboratory during this period, although Matuska said it only requires “air filter changes, water canister emptying and cleaning for the photovoltaic modules.”

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The prototype cost about 360,000 euros ($400,000), making the water extracted very expensive – $10 per litre in the first year.

The project will be showcased at the Dubai Expo 2020, to be held between October 2020 and April 2021.

“There is a great interest in our project, from the US to Australia,” Matuska said, adding: “We have signed a confidentiality agreement with a company with businesses in the Persian Gulf area.” (IANS)