Astronomers spot new city of stars

Astronomers have discovered 100,000 previously unknown stars in our own Milky Way. The huge haul of new suns lie together in a densely packed cluster, 30,000 light years away towards the centre of the galaxy.

Dirk Froebrich, of the University of Kent, and Aleks Scholz, of the University of St Andrews, Scotland, made the find with German colleague Helmut Meusinger.

They detected the new globular cluster using the European Southern Observatory’s New Technology Telescope on a mountaintop at La Silla, Chile. The stellar city is about seven light years wide, which is nearly twice the distance between the sun and our nearest star, Proxima Centauri.

Globular star clusters are like fossils of the early universe providing scientists with unique laboratory conditions to investigate various aspects of astrophysics. They represent groups of stars with similar ages, chemistry and distances. The newly-found cluster is thought to be around 10 billion years old and among the oldest objects in our galaxy.

Dr Froebrich said: “The properties of globular clusters are deeply connected with the history of their host galaxy. We believe today that galaxy collisions, galaxy cannibalism, as well as galaxy mergers leave their imprint in the globular cluster population of any given galaxy.

“Thus we hope to be able to use them as an acid test for our understanding of the formation and evolution of galaxies.”

Photo: ESO

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