Science

Astronomers detect a bright-blue bridge of stars in Milky Way about to explode

A new region of the Milky Way was detected by astrophysicists, and it’s filled with hot, luminous stars which are nearing their death through a supernova explosion.  

The researchers have named the region, the Cepheus spur, while they were studying our galactic neighborhood. The astronomers teamed up with the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Gaia space telescope for the study, and its goal was to create the most detailed map yet of the star-flecked spiral arms of our galaxy that are located close to ours, according to Live Science. The team published the study on March 19 in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The Cepheus spur, which is located between the Orion Arm – where our solar system is, and the constellation Perseus, spur is a belt that links to spiral arms filled with fierce blue giant stars, that are about three times more massive and a billion times hotter than the sun. Astronomers call such blue giant stars OB stars, due to their primary blue wavelength present in the light emitted. These stars are one of the rarest, largest, short-lived, and most intense stars in our galaxy. They reach the end of their life-cycle through a violent explosion called a supernova, which scatters off heavy elements from the star that are essential for complex life to evolve on planets like the earth.  

Michelangelo Pantaleoni Gonzalez, one of the co-authors of the study and researcher at the Spanish Astrobiology Center, said, “OB stars are rare, in a galaxy of 400 billion stars there might be less than 200,000.” According to the researchers, whenever we find blue stars, we find the most active and most “alive” regions of the galaxy.

The researchers composed the star map by analyzing data collected from the Gaia telescope and by computing the distance between the stars from the earth by a technique called stellar parallax, where the distances to the stars are measured by comparing the apparent positions of stars from different frames of reference while the earth revolves the sun. The team also proved that the new region was a part of the spiral disk of the galaxy and that it makes up most of our galaxy’s essence, which they inferred by studying their consistent movement.   

The team also suspects that observing the spur’s location above the galactic disk could bring out some mind-boggling results on the Milky Way’s past. The researchers are also planning to put additional OB stars into a more precise map, which might give a clear idea of our galaxy’s structure.

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ARTICLE: LIDHYA SHILU

SCIENCE/HEALTH EDITOR: KYLE SMITH

PHOTO CREDITS: LIVE SCIENCE

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