Researchers at the European Southern Observatory have discovered a section of the Milky Way that continues to produce mysterious, bright, young stars.
Scientists have been scanning the distant skies for evidence of star formation, but researchers using the European Southern Observatory’s VISTA telescope have made a fascinating discovery right in our own backyard.
According to a report from the Washington Post, astronomers have discovered that a bulge at the very center of the Milky Way continues to create new stars.
A study, released in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, reveals that a region of the galaxy once thought to only harbor ancient stars is actually very active. The study examined variable stars called Cepheids, which periodically brighten and dim. This allows researchers to measure their distance from Earth, which was collected over a study period of several years. The VISTA telescope can slice through the thick cosmic dust using infrared rays.
The study examined 655 Cepheids, 35 of which were found to be classical Cepheids, a subcategory of young stars. Researchers were shocked when they discovered that the newly formed stars were forming a disk shape along the central bulge in the Milky Way.
According to Dante Minniti of the Universidad Andres Bello, the study’s second author, each of the classical Cepheids is younger than 100 million years old. The youngest star studied was only 25 million years old, and the researchers believe that there may be even younger and brighter Cepheids waiting to be found.
A press release from the European Southern Observatory outlining the study’s findings can be read here.