Spanish scientists discover new star structure in the Milky Way

Spanish scientists discover new star structure in the Milky Way


Spanish scientists discover new star structure in the Milky Way.

A TEAM of researchers from the Centre for Astrobiology (CAB, CSIC-INTA), has drawn the most detailed map to date of massive blue stars in the solar neighbourhood, discovering in it a hidden structure they have named the Cepheus spur.

The map is so detailed that it has allowed the scientific team to discover something that no one has seen until now: a structure made up of massive blue stars about 10,000 light-years in length that extends from Orion towards Perseus, rising above the plane of the Galaxy.

“Massive blue stars (also known as OB stars) have a peculiarity that makes them especially interesting to astrophysicists: as they have a short-lived life span of a few million years,” said CAB.

“Thus, in the same way that the dating of rocks reveals the level of geological activity of a planet, the presence of OB stars in the Milky Way is an indicator of activity in our Galaxy, since they reveal regions of star formation.

“Where we find them we can say that the Galaxy is ‘alive’, as new stars are being formed,” added the centre.

The team has carried out ‘an exhaustive update’ of the ALS (Alma Luminous Stars) catalogue, the largest existing catalogue of massive blue stars in our galaxy.

Compiled two decades ago, this catalogue contains almost 20,000 objects. For months, researchers have crossed the old data from each star with the data recently obtained with ESA’s Gaia mission, obtaining a completely up-to-date record.

The new data has allowed the team to draw the most detailed map of the spiral arms of the Milky Way for the first time.

Michelangelo Pantaleoni González, CAB researcher and lead author of the study, said: “We have thoroughly reviewed the original catalogue, updating and systematising it with modern Gaia data.

“And although this was the purpose of the study, having such an up-to-date sample of stars led us to take a look at the data to see what aspects of our Galactic environment were manifesting most clearly. And there the surprise arose.”

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Tara Rippin

Tara Rippin is a reporter for Spain’s largest English-speaking newspaper, Euro Weekly News, and is responsible for the Costa Blanca region.
She has been in journalism for more than 20 years, having worked for local newspapers in the Midlands, UK, before relocating to Spain in 1990.
Since arriving, the mother-of-one has made her home on the Costa Blanca, while spending 18 months at the EWN head office in Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol.
She loves being part of a community that has a wonderful expat and Spanish mix, and strives to bring the latest and most relevant news to EWN’s loyal and valued readers.

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