20 June 2024
Hidden stars spotted for first time ever

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Hidden stars, including a new type of elderly giant nicknamed ‘old smoker,’ have been spotted for the first time by astronomers. The mystery objects exist at the heart of our Milky Way galaxy and can sit quietly for decades—fading almost to invisibility—before suddenly puffing out clouds of smoke, according to new research published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Hidden Stars Spotted: Unveiling the Mysteries of the Milky Way



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In a groundbreaking discovery, astronomers have identified hidden stars, including a new type of elderly giant nicknamed “old smoker,” lurking within the heart of our Milky Way galaxy. These enigmatic objects have remained hidden for decades, fading almost to invisibility before suddenly releasing clouds of smoke.

Unveiling the Secrets of the Milky Way’s Hidden Stars

An international team of scientists led by Professor Philip Lucas of the University of Hertfordshire made this remarkable discovery by monitoring nearly a billion stars in infrared light during a 10-year survey of the night sky. The results of their research have been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The Elusive “Old Smokers” of the Milky Way

Among the hidden stars discovered are a new type of elderly giant star, dubbed “old smokers.” These stars reside in the innermost part of the Milky Way, known as the Nuclear Disk. They quietly exist for years or decades before unexpectedly puffing out clouds of smoke. During these eruptions, they appear dim and red, sometimes becoming completely invisible.

The Significance of the Discovery of Hidden Stars

The discovery of old smokers challenges our understanding of the distribution of elements across space. Matter ejected from these stars plays a crucial role in the life cycle of elements, contributing to the formation of new stars and planets. This finding suggests that the spread of heavy elements in the Nuclear Disk and metal-rich regions of other galaxies may be more extensive than previously thought.

Uncovering Rare Newborn Stars in the Milky Way

In addition to old smokers, the team also detected dozens of rarely-seen newborn stars, known as protostars. These protostars undergo extreme outbursts over months, years, or decades as part of the formation of new solar systems. Most of these newborn stars are hidden from view in visible light due to large amounts of dust and gas in the Milky Way, but infrared light allows scientists to observe them.

The Role of VISTA in Spotting Hidden Stars

The Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope (VISTA), a British-built telescope located high in the Chilean Andes, played a pivotal role in this research. VISTA’s ability to observe in infrared light enabled the team to penetrate the dust and gas obscuring these hidden stars, revealing their true nature.

Unraveling the Mysteries of Stellar Evolution with Hidden Stars

The discovery of hidden stars, including old smokers and erupting protostars, provides valuable insights into the evolution of stars and the formation of new solar systems. These findings challenge our current understanding of stellar behavior and open up new avenues for exploration in the vastness of space.

Wrapping Up

The identification of hidden stars in the Milky Way, particularly the enigmatic old smokers and erupting protostars, represents a significant advancement in our understanding of stellar evolution and the life cycle of elements. These discoveries highlight the importance of continued exploration and observation of the cosmos, revealing the hidden secrets that lie within.

FAQ’s

1. What are “old smokers,” and why are they significant?

Old smokers are a newly discovered type of elderly giant star residing in the innermost part of the Milky Way. They remain hidden for years or decades before suddenly puffing out clouds of smoke, appearing dim and red. Their eruptions challenge our understanding of the distribution of elements across space and contribute to the formation of new stars and planets.

2. How were hidden stars discovered in the Milky Way?

Astronomers led by Professor Philip Lucas of the University of Hertfordshire conducted a 10-year survey of the night sky using the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope (VISTA). By monitoring nearly a billion stars in infrared light, they were able to penetrate the dust and gas obscuring these hidden stars and reveal their true nature.

3. What is the significance of the discovery of protostars?

Protostars are rarely-seen newborn stars that undergo extreme outbursts as part of the formation of new solar systems. The discovery of dozens of protostars hidden in the Milky Way provides valuable insights into the early stages of stellar evolution. Infrared light allows scientists to observe these protostars, which are often obscured from view in visible light due to dust and gas.

4. What role did VISTA play in this research?

The Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope (VISTA) played a pivotal role in this research. VISTA’s ability to observe in infrared light enabled the team to penetrate the dust and gas obscuring these hidden stars, revealing their true nature. VISTA is a British-built telescope located high in the Chilean Andes.

5. How do these discoveries contribute to our understanding of stellar evolution?

The discovery of hidden stars, including old smokers and erupting protostars, challenges our current understanding of stellar behavior and provides valuable insights into the evolution of stars and the formation of new solar systems. These findings open up new avenues for exploration in the vastness of space and help us unravel the mysteries of the cosmos.

Links to additional Resources:

1. https://www.ras.org.uk/ 2. https://www.nasa.gov/ 3. https://www.space.com/

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Old smoker (star), Milky Way galaxy, VISTA telescope

Smoking
Smoking is a practice in which a substance is combusted and the resulting smoke is typically inhaled to be tasted and absorbed into the bloodstream of a person. Most commonly, the substance used is the dried leaves of the tobacco plant, which have been rolled with a small rectangle of...
Read more: Smoking

Milky Way
The Milky Way is the galaxy that includes the Solar System, with the name describing the galaxy's appearance from Earth: a hazy band of light seen in the night sky formed from stars that cannot be individually distinguished by the naked eye. The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy...
Read more: Milky Way

VISTA (telescope)
The VISTA (Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy) is a wide-field reflecting telescope with a 4.1 metre mirror, located at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. It is operated by the European Southern Observatory and started science operations in December 2009. VISTA was conceived and developed by a consortium of...
Read more: VISTA (telescope)

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