Milky Way Inside-Out: Scientists Say It Developed Out From Center

Image: Milky Way Inside-Out: Scientists Say It Developed Out From Center

Tuesday, 21 Jan 2014 03:22 PM

By David Ogul

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Scientists say new models of the Milky Way show it developed inside-out, expanding from the center, as they try to discover how the galaxy was formed.

Using data from the Gaia-ESO project, scientists say that the stars in the center of the galaxy “live fast and die young” but are actually much older than first believed, according to a report in the Daily Mail.

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Astronomers came to their conclusions through detailed observations of stars with a wide range of ages and locations to measure their metallicity — or the amount of chemical elements in a star other than hydrogen and helium, which are the two elements most stars are made from, Sci-News.com reported. It is nearly impossible, scientists say, to determine a star’s real age, so scientists analyze the chemical composition. Those that show an increase in the ratio of magnesium to iron appear to be older.

What they found was that stars in the outer regions of the Galactic disc, including the Sun, are much younger than first believed. Stars near the center of the galaxy are much older.

“This discovery signifies important differences in stellar evolution across the Milky Way disc, with very efficient and short star formation times occurring inside the Solar Circle; whereas, outside the Sun’s orbit, star formation took much longer,” Sci-News.com reported.

“We have been able to shed new light on the timescale of chemical enrichment across the Milky Way disc, showing that outer regions of the disc take a much longer time to form,” Maria Bergemann of Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy, who led the study, told Sci-News.

The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains the Earth, the sun and the rest of our solar system. Astronomers at one time believed that all of the stars in the universe were in the Milky Way, but they now agree the galaxy is but one of many, though it is believed to contain up to 400 billion stars.

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