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Astronomers determine the age of three mysterious baby stars at the heart of the Milky Way

This is a photo that shows the stellar crowded centre of the galaxy. It is speckeled with red, blue and yellow stars. In the very center, the image is zoomed in, showing a very dense enviornment of stars, appearing almost as a homogenous light.
The image, taken with ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile, shows a high-resolution view of the innermost parts of the Milky Way. In the new study, the researchers examined the dense nuclear star cluster shown in detail here. (Photo: ESO)

Note: This PR was published by Lund University on 01/12/2023

Through analysis of high-resolution data from a ten-metre telescope in Hawaii, researchers at Lund University in Sweden have succeeded in generating new knowledge about three stars at the very heart of the Milky Way. The stars proved to be unusually young with a puzzling chemical composition that surprised the researchers.

The study, which has been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, examined a group of stars located in the nuclear star cluster that makes up the heart of the galaxy. It concerns three stars that are difficult to study because they are extremely far away from our solar system, and hidden behind enormous clouds of dust and gas that block out light. The fact that the area is also full of stars makes it very complicated to discern individual stars.

In a previous study, the researchers put forward a hypothesis that these specific stars in the middle of the Milky Way could be unusually young.

“We can now confirm this. In our study we have been able to date three of these stars as relatively young, at least as far as astronomers are concerned, with ages of 100 million to about 1 billion years. This can be compared with the sun, which is 4.6 billion years old,” says Rebecca Forsberg, researcher in astronomy at Lund University.

Read the full press release here.