24/7 Space News
Milky Way Collision Occurred Billions of Years Later Than Previously Thought
illustration only
Milky Way Collision Occurred Billions of Years Later Than Previously Thought
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Jun 07, 2024

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute"s Heidi Jo Newberg, Ph.D., professor of astronomy; Tom Donlon, Ph.D., a visiting researcher at Rensselaer and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Alabama; and their team have published research revealing that the Milky Way Galaxy"s last major collision occurred billions of years later than previously believed.

The discovery was made possible by the European Space Agency"s Gaia spacecraft, which maps more than a billion stars in the Milky Way and beyond, tracking their motion, luminosity, temperature, and composition. Newberg and Donlon focused on the "wrinkles" in our galaxy, which form when other galaxies collide with the Milky Way.

"We get wrinklier as we age, but our work reveals that the opposite is true for the Milky Way. It"s a sort of cosmic Benjamin Button, getting less wrinkly over time," said Donlon, lead author of the new Gaia study, which also served as his doctoral thesis at Rensselaer. "By looking at how these wrinkles dissipate over time, we can trace when the Milky Way experienced its last big crash - and it turns out this happened billions of years later than we thought."

By comparing their observations of the wrinkles with cosmological simulations, the team determined that our last significant collision with another galaxy did not occur between eight and 11 billion years ago, as previously believed.

"For the wrinkles of stars to be as obvious as they appear in Gaia data, they must have joined us no less than three billion years ago - at least five billion years later than was previously thought," said Newberg, Donlon"s thesis adviser at Rensselaer. "New wrinkles of stars form each time the stars swing back and forth through the center of the Milky Way. If they"d joined us eight billion years ago, there would be so many wrinkles right next to each other that we would no longer see them as separate features."

The collision is thought to have resulted in a large number of stars with unusual orbits. Previously, scientists dated it between eight and 11 billion years ago in a collision called the Gaia-Sausage-Enceladus (GSE) merger. Newberg and Donlon"s findings indicate that the stars may have resulted from the Virgo Radial Merger, which crashed through the center of the Milky Way less than three billion years ago.

"Gaia is a hugely productive mission that"s transforming our view of the cosmos," says Timo Prusti, Ph.D., Project Scientist for Gaia at the European Space Agency. "Results like this are made possible due to incredible teamwork and collaboration between a huge number of scientists and engineers across Europe and beyond."

"Through this study, Doctors Newberg and Donlon have made a startling discovery about the history of the Milky Way galaxy," said Curt Breneman, Ph.D., dean of the School of Science. "Gaia data is offering unprecedented opportunities to better understand our universe, and I am thrilled that Rensselaer researchers were able to harness the power of this incredibly detailed new data."

Newberg and Donlon were joined in research by Robyn Sanderson, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania and Flatiron Institute; Emily Bregou, Ph.D., Arpit Arora, Ph.D., and Nondh Panithanpaisal, Ph.D. of the University of Pennsylvania; and Danny Horta, Ph.D., of the Flatiron Institute and the Astrophysics Research Institute.

Research Report:The debris of the 'last major merger" is dynamically young

Related Links
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Stellar Chemistry, The Universe And All Within It

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
Census of cosmic neighbors reveals new insights with help from citizen scientists
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Apr 17, 2024
Using various telescopes, scientists, including volunteer citizen scientists worldwide, have mapped over 3,500 cosmic entities within 65 light-years of the Sun through the Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 project. A recent study published in The Astrophysical Journal details these findings, highlighting that stars outnumber brown dwarfs by four to one in this sector, yet low-mass objects prevail over their heavier counterparts. "The diversity in mass and the sudden frequency changes at three specif ... read more

Ohio State students to test space food solutions for NASA

US and Germany double down on space exploration

NASA and Boeing Advance Starliner Tests with Crew at Space Station

Virgin Galactic completes final spaceflight before two-year pause

Rocket Lab plans 50th Electron mission to deploy five satellites for Kineis

Boeing Starliner crew aboard ISS after challenging docking

In first, SpaceX's megarocket Starship nails ocean splashdown

European Consortium Receives euro 15M for Inflatable Heat Shield Development

Water frost discovered on Mars' tallest volcanoes

Frost discovered on top of giant Mars volcanoes

New analysis suggests lack of subglacial lake on Mars

NASA Observes Mars Illuminated During Major Solar Storm

Ten make the cut for China's fourth batch of astronauts

China sees commercial sector as next frontier in US space race

China announces first astronaut candidates from Hong Kong, Macau

China Open to Space Collaboration with the US

Yahsat Contracts Airbus for New Al Yah Satellites

Nara Space Secures $14.5M Series B to Expand Satellite Fleet

China launches multi-functional communication satellite for Pakistan

CGI works on new interfaces for European Space Agency to expand satellite communications market

Over 40 Entities Join the Zero Debris Charter

10 Benefits of Using 360Learning for Your Company's Learning Needs

Where is the Best Place to Buy Used Books?

Security considerations in flight launcher software

Webb Telescope Reveals Asteroid Collision In Neighboring Star System

Small, cool and sulfurous exoplanet may help write recipe for planetary formation

Planet-forming Disks Around Low-mass Stars Show Unique Characteristics

Clemson grad student's study sheds light on planet formation in infant stars

Understanding Cyclones on Jupiter Through Oceanography

Unusual Ion May Influence Uranus and Neptune's Magnetic Fields

NASA's Europa Clipper Arrives in Florida for Launch Preparation

New Earth-Based Telescope Images of Jupiter's Moon Io Match Spacecraft Quality

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.