Gaia mission finds parts of the Milky Way much older than expected

Gaia mission finds parts of the Milky Way much older than expected

Utilizing information from ESA’s Gaia mission, space experts have shown that a piece of the Milky Way known as the ‘thick circle’ started framing 13 billion years prior, around 2 billion years sooner than anticipated, and simply 0.8 billion years after the Big Bang.

This astounding outcome comes from an examination performed by Maosheng Xiang and Hans-Walter Rix, from the Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg, Germany. They took splendor and positional information from Gaia’s Early Data Release 3 (EDR3) dataset and consolidated it with estimations of the stars’ compound pieces, as given by information from China’s Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST) for about 250 000 stars to infer their ages.

They decided to check sub monster stars out. Profoundly. The actual star is changing into a red goliath star. Since the sub goliath stage is a moderately short developmental stage in a star’s life, it allows its age not entirely set in stone with extraordinary precision, however it’s as yet an interesting estimation.

How old are the stars?

The age of a star is perhaps the most troublesome boundary to decide. It can’t be estimated straightforwardly however should be induced by contrasting a star’s attributes and PC models of heavenly development. The compositional information assists with this. The Universe was brought into the world with solely hydrogen and helium. The other substance components, referred to altogether as metals to cosmologists, are made inside stars, and detonated once again into space toward the finish of a star’s life, where they can be joined into the up and coming age of stars. In this way, more seasoned stars have less metals and are said to have lower metallicity.

The LAMOST information gives the metallicity. Together, the brilliance and metallicity permit cosmologists to separate the star’s age from the PC models. Before Gaia, stargazers were regularly working with vulnerabilities of 20-40 percent, which could bring about the decided ages being uncertain by a billion years or more.

Gaia’s EDR3 information discharge changes this. “With Gaia’s splendor information, we can decide the age of a sub monster star to a couple of percent,” says Maosheng. Outfitted with exact ages for a fourth of 1,000,000 sub goliath stars spread all through the world, Maosheng and Hans-Walter started the examination.

An artist’s impression of our Milky Way galaxy, a roughly 13 billon-year-old ‘barred spiral galaxy’ that is home to a few hundred billion stars. On the left, a face-on view shows the spiral structure of the Galactic Disc, where the majority of stars are located, interspersed with a diffuse mixture of gas and cosmic dust. The disc measures about 100 000 light-years across, and the Sun sits about half way between its centre and periphery. On the right, an edge-on view reveals the flattened shape of the disc. Observations point to a substructure: a thin disc some 700 light-years high embedded in a thick disc, about 3000 light-years high and populated with older stars. The edge on view also shows the Galactic Bulge, located in the central portion of the Milky Way and hosting about 10 billion stars, which are mainly old and red. The bulge, also visible in the face-on view on the left, has an overall elongated shape that resembles that of a peanut-shaped bar, with a half-length of about 10 000 light-years, making the Milky Way a barred spiral galaxy. Credit: European Space Agency
Milky Way anatomy

Our system is made of various parts. Comprehensively, these can be parted into the radiance and the plate. The radiance is the circular area encompassing the plate, and has customarily been believed to be the most established part of the universe. The plate is made out of two sections: the slender circle and the thick plate. The meager circle contains the greater part of the stars that we consider to be the hazy band of light in the night sky that we call the Milky Way. The thick plate is over two times the stature of the meager circle yet more modest in range, containing a couple of percent of the Milky Way’s stars in the sun powered area.

By distinguishing sub goliath stars in these various areas, the specialists had the option to assemble a course of events of the Milky Way’s arrangement and that is the point at which they got a shock.

Two phases in Milky Way history

The stellar ages clearly revealed that the formation of the Milky Way fell into two distinct phases. In the first phase, starting just 0.8 billion years after the Big Bang, the thick disc began forming stars. The inner parts of the halo may also have begun to come together at this stage, but the process rapidly accelerated to completion about two billion years later when a dwarf galaxy known as Gaia-Sausage-Enceladus merged with the Milky Way. It filled the halo with stars and, as clearly revealed by the new work, triggered the nascent thick disc to form the majority of its stars. The thin disc of stars which holds the Sun, was formed during the subsequent, second phase of the galaxy’s formation.

The analysis also shows that after the star-forming burst triggered by the merger with Gaia-Sausage-Enceladus, the thick disc continued to form stars until the gas was used up at around 6 billion years after the Big Bang. During this time, the metallicity of the thick disk grew by more than a factor of 10. But remarkably, the researchers see a very tight stellar age—metallicity relation, which indicates that throughout that period, the gas forming the stars was well-mixed across the whole disk. This implies that the early Milky Way’s disk regions must have been formed from highly turbulent gas that effectively spread the metals far and wide.

A timeline thanks to Gaia

The earlier formation age of the thick disc points to a different picture of our galaxy’s early history. “Since the discovery of the ancient merger with Gaia-Sausage-Enceladus, in 2018, astronomers have suspected that the Milky Way was already there before the halo formed, but we didn’t have a clear picture of what that Milky Way looked like. Our results provide exquisite details about that part of the Milky Way, such as its birthday, its star-formation rate and metal enrichment history. Putting together these discoveries using Gaia data is revolutionizing our picture of when and how our galaxy was formed.” says Maosheng.

And we may not yet be looking far enough into the Universe to see similar galactic discs forming. An age of 13 billion years corresponds to a redshift of 7, where redshift is a measure of how far away a celestial object is, and so how long its light has taken to cross space and reach us.

New observations could come in the near future as the James Webb Space Telescope has been optimized to see the earliest Milky Way-like galaxies in the Universe. And on 13 June this year, Gaia will release its full third data release (Gaia DR3). This catalog will include spectra and derived information like ages and metallicity, making studies like Maosheng’s even easier to conduct.

“With each new analysis and data release, Gaia allows us to piece together the history of our galaxy in even more unprecedented detail. With the release of Gaia DR3 in June, astronomers will be able to enrich the story with even more details,” says Timo Prusti, Gaia Project Scientist for ESA. The research was published in Nature.

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