Scientists have discovered where ancient stars from the Milky Way went after they died.
A team with the University of Syndey recently published findings in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. And they prove that celestial bodies ejected into a “galactic underworld” billions of years ago. The galaxy graveyard is considerably larger than the Milky Way. And it’s filled with black holes and neutron stars.
“These compact remnants of dead stars show a fundamentally different distribution and structure to the visible galaxy,” David Sweeney, who is a Ph.D. candidate and the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “The ‘height’ of the galactic underworld is over three times larger in the Milky Way itself.”
The team was able to create a map of the area that shows how many black holes and neutron stars reside within it and exactly where they are. And the model explains how the stars were born and died. And it details how some left the Milky Way.
The map also shows where the bones of lost stars could be now. And it notes that around 30% of the remnants have already been ejected or they’re about to be. Supernovas often explode with so much energy that dust and gas accelerate at millions of miles an hour. Where and how the energy generates is nearly unpredictable. And the remnants don’t always end up in the same place.
Scientists Hope to Find Where Lost Remnants Went After they Ejected From the Milky Way
Some of the objects, especially the older black holes and fallen suns, were incredibly difficult to trace. But Professor Peter Tuthill with the Sydney Institute for Astronomy tediously worked alongside the scientists to track them down.
Tuthill said the process “was like trying to find the mythical elephant’s graveyard.”
“The bones of these rare massive stars had to be out there. But they seemed to shroud themselves in mystery,” he continued. “The oldest neutron stars and black holes were created when the galaxy was younger and shaped differently. And then subjected to complex changes spanning billions of years. It has been a major task to model all of this to find them.”
When it comes to the stars that were kicked out of the Milky Way with such a force that their remnants left the galaxy entirely—the team believes they may not be lost forever.
“Now that we know where to look, we’re developing technologies to go hunting for [these objects],” Sweeney added. “I’m betting that the ‘galactic underworld’ won’t stay shrouded in mystery for very much longer.”