Spanish scientists discover new Milky Way structure

by Lorraine Williamson
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Research team, Spanish Centre for Astrobiology (CAB) presented a new, star map of the Milky Way to date. This map shows a newly discovered structure called the Cefeo spur. 

The star map was created with observations from the Gaia space telescope of the European Space Agency (ESA). The map shows three large spiral arms, the Orion arm, the Perseus arm and the Sagittarius arm. The team that discovered the new galaxy structure was led by Spanish scientists Michelangelo Pantaleoni González and Jesús Maíz Apaellánez. 

Compact structure 

The newly discovered Milky Way spur is a compact structure with a consistent pattern of motion above the galactic disk about 300 light years from the Milky Way’s median plane. This height difference is explained by a kind of undulations that have also been observed in neighboring galaxies. It is the first time that these undulations have now also been observed in the Milky Way. It could be the echoes of collisions with other galaxies billions of years ago. 

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Stranger in our midst 

The massive blue stars that make up the Cefeo spur are the largest, least common, and hottest stars in the Milky Way. Of the estimated 400,000 million stars that make up the Milky Way, only one in a million is such a blue massive star. According to the researchers, it is therefore a “odd man out”. Celestial bodies such as the sun have a temperature of about 5,500 degrees Celsius. On the blue stars of the Cefeo foothill, the temperature rises to about 30,000 degrees Celsius. The mass of these stars is tens of times greater than that of other celestial bodies. 

Cosmic Violence 

According to Apellániz and Pantaleoni, these are the most interesting celestial bodies in the universe. This is because of the violent nuclear reactions that take place in these stars. When a blue star dies, a huge amount of energy is released and the outer parts are blown away explosively. The gas that is compressed during this process is so hot that it again forms a basis for new stars. When a blue star dies, hundreds of new stars can be formed from it. But the most special thing about these stars, according to the researchers, is their relatively short lifespan. Some stars die after only a few million years, that is five times earlier than celestial objects such as the sun. 

The discovery of the Cefeo offshoot is scientifically relevant as it shows how new elements are formed in the universe and how the universal material is recycled. The research of Apellániz and Pantaleoni has been published in the British scientific journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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