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New Gaia Data Reveals Mergers in Milky Way

13 Jun 2018, 20:26 UTC
New Gaia Data Reveals Mergers in Milky Way
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University of Groningen astronomers have discovered relics of merger events in the Milky Way halo. Five small groups of stars appear to represent mergers with smaller galaxies, while a big ‘blob’ comprising hundreds of stars appears to be the remnant of a large merger event. These results were published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters on June 12.The study is based on the recent Gaia Data Release 2. This provided the astronomical community with accurate information on the position and movement of millions of stars, mostly in the Milky Way. PhD student Helmer Koppelman is part of the research group of Professor of Dynamics, Structure and Formation of the Milky Way Amina Helmi, who has been involved in the Gaia mission almost from its inception. He started analyzing the data right after the release and published a preprint of the article just eight days later. This has now been officially published.‘Our aim is to study how the Milky Way has evolved’, says Koppelman. The idea is that smaller galaxies merge to form larger ones. ‘One of the questions is whether a lot of small galaxies merge or a few large ones.’ As most stars in the Milky Way’s halo – the ...

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