Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A “Genetic Study” of the Galaxy

13.09.2006
Galactic Bulge and Disc Stars Shown To Have Different Oxygen Abundances

Looking in detail at the composition of stars with ESO’s VLT, astronomers are providing a fresh look at the history of our home galaxy, the Milky Way. They reveal that the central part of our Galaxy formed not only very quickly but also independently of the rest.

“For the first time, we have clearly established a ‘genetic difference’ between stars in the disc and the bulge of our Galaxy,” said Manuela Zoccali, lead author of the paper presenting the results in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics [1]. “We infer from this that the bulge must have formed more rapidly than the disc, probably in less than a billion years and when the Universe was still very young.”

The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy, having pinwheel-shaped arms of gas, dust, and stars lying in a flattened disc, and extending directly out from a spherical nucleus of stars in the central region. The spherical nucleus is called a bulge, because it bulges out from the disc. While the disc of our Galaxy is made up of stars of all ages, the bulge contains old stars dating from the time the galaxy formed, more than 10 billion years ago. Thus, studying the bulge allows astronomers to know more about how our Galaxy formed.

To do this, an international team of astronomers [2] analysed in detail the chemical composition of 50 giant stars in four different areas of the sky towards the Galactic bulge. They made use of the FLAMES/UVES spectrograph on ESO’s Very Large Telescope to obtain high-resolution spectra.

The chemical composition of stars carries the signature of the enrichment processes undergone by the interstellar matter up to the moment of their formation. It depends on the previous history of star formation and can thus be used to infer whether there is a ‘genetic link’ between different stellar groups. In particular, comparison between the abundance of oxygen and iron in stars is very illustrative. Oxygen is predominantly produced in the explosion of massive, short-lived stars (so-called Type II supernovae), while iron instead originates mostly in Type Ia supernovae [3], which can take much longer to develop. Comparing oxygen with iron abundances therefore gives insight on the star birth rate in the Milky Way’s past.

“The larger size and iron-content coverage of our sample allows us to draw much more robust conclusions than were possible until now,” said Aurelie Lecureur, from the Paris-Meudon Observatory (France) and co-author of the paper.

The astronomers clearly established that, for a given iron content, stars in the bulge possess more oxygen than their disc counterparts. This highlights a systematic, hereditary difference between bulge and disc stars.

“In other words, bulge stars did not originate in the disc and then migrate inward to build up the bulge but rather formed independently of the disc,” said Zoccali. “Moreover, the chemical enrichment of the bulge, and hence its formation timescale, has been faster than that of the disc.”

Comparisons with theoretical models indicate that the Galactic bulge must have formed in less than a billion years, most likely through a series of starbursts when the Universe was still very young.

Henri Boffin | alfa
Further information:
http://www.eso.org
http://www.eso.org/outreach/press-rel/pr-2006/pr-34-06.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Further Improvement of Qubit Lifetime for Quantum Computers
09.12.2016 | Forschungszentrum Jülich

nachricht Electron highway inside crystal
09.12.2016 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>