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Tim Kendall's Extreme Astrophysics

HST/ACS stellar archaeology of the Galactic bulge: a population of relic white dwarfs

19 Dec 2015, 17:05 UTC
HST/ACS stellar archaeology of the Galactic bulge: a population of relic white dwarfs
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Small section of Hubble’s view of the dense collection of stars crammed together in the galactic bulge. The region surveyed is part of the Sagittarius Window Eclipsing Extrasolar Planet Search (SWEEPS) field and is located 26,000 light-years away. Credits: NASA/ESA/STScI/SWEEPS Science Team.

Using data from the Hubble Space Telescope to conduct a “cosmic archaeological dig” at the very heart of our Milky Way galaxy, astronomers have uncovered the blueprints of our galaxy’s early construction phase. Peering deep into the Milky Way’s crowded central hub of stars, Hubble researchers have uncovered for the first time a population of ancient white dwarfs — smoldering remnants of once-vibrant stars that inhabited the core. Finding these relics at last can yield clues to how our galaxy was built, long before Earth and our sun formed. The observations are the deepest, most detailed study of the galaxy’s foundational city structure — its vast central bulge that lies in the middle of a pancake-shaped disk of stars, where our solar system dwells. As with any archaeological relic, the white dwarfs contain the history of a bygone era. They contain information about the stars that existed about 12 billion years ago that burned out to form the ...

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