The Milky Way is home to a variety of star clusters. Most of the time, its gravity quickly separates these bunches, but some bunches have enough mass to stick together and sometimes form stellar streams, which are river-like expanses of stars that gravitate around the galaxy.
Now, researchers have identified a multi-billion-year-old stellar flow of nearly 4,000 stars, remarkably close to our Sun.
In a study published in the journal Astronomy and astrophysics On Thursday, a team from the University of Vienna detailed the discovery of this new starry flux, with a length of about 1,300 light-years and a width of 160 light-years .
The team discovered the stream using data from the Gaia satellite of the European Space Agency. According to researcher João Alves, he was hiding in plain sight.
"Astronomers have been observing and studying this new stream for a long time because it covers most of the night sky, but only now realize that it is there," he said in a press release.
"As soon as we studied this group of stars in more detail, we knew we had found what we were looking for: a contemporary, flow-shaped structure, extending over hundreds of parsecs on a third of the entire sky, "he said. Verena Fürnkranz said. "It was so exciting to be part of a new discovery."
Researchers are already studying the new information they could draw from this river of stars, believing that this could bring new information on how galaxies are gaining their stars, discovering new exoplanets and a better understanding of the milky world. The path of mass and the gravitational field.
"Finding things close to home is very helpful," said Alves. "This means that they are neither too weak nor too fuzzy for more detailed exploration, as astronomers dream."