A spectroscopic study recently revealed that 30 percent of stars within our galaxy have migrated from their birth locations.
The findings were made with help from Apache Point Observatory’s Sloan Digital Sky Survey-III (SDSS) in New Mexico. SDSS revealed that some stars drift away from their birthplaces by linking their chemical signature with that from the locations they were born. Researchers noted that a third of the stars in our galaxies left home.
Donald Schneider of Penn State University and lead author of the study explained that about 70,000 stars were surveyed during the study with help from SDSS which mapped their chemical properties to reveal their history.
“This exercise can be described as galactic archaeology,”
Prof. Schneider added.
The research team explained that spectroscopic measures are very similar to those when looking at the rings on a tree log to estimate the age of that tree. Researchers found that their chemical signature can provide many details on their age and birth place.
Jon Holtzman of the New Mexico State University believes that the new study also suggests that our galaxy’s chemical makeup is changing over time. He said that as stars grow older their cores develop heavier elements. But after those stars die, the heavy elements get released into the surrounding gas where other stars start to form.
Michael Hayden of the New Mexico State University and co author of the study noted that migrating stars are very similar to people leaving their birthplaces.
A paper on the findings was recently published in the Astrophysical Journal.
During their study, scientists sifted through the data collected by SDSS’s Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Explorer (APOGEE)which mapped the chemical fingerprint of tens of thousands of stars located in the Milky Way. Of these stars, about 30 percent had a chemical signature that was different from that of the stellar gasses at their birthplace.
The team believes that the migratory patterns may be linked to the migratory models observed in our galaxy. Stellar migration must have been triggered by the lack of uniformity of the matter within Milky Way’s spiral arms, researchers suggested.
On the other hand, this is not the first study to reveal that stars can migrate far way from their birth places. But it is the first to show a galaxy-wide trend in stellar migration.
Steven Majewski, chief investigator of APOGEE project, noted that there is a lot of data to be analyzed within the project which may provide even more insights into the galaxy’s history and chemistry on the long run.
Image Source: University of Oregon
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