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Astronomers Look Into Mystery of Young Stars Missing from Milky Way Galaxy

Aug 03, 2016 08:03 AM EDT
Fragments Of An Exploded Star
UNDATED PHOTO: An image of a Cas A supernova reveals the remnants of a section of the upper rim of the youngest known supervova identified in our Milky Way galaxy. Dozens of tiny clumps near the top of the image are actually small fragments of the star and each clump is approximately ten times larger than the diameter of our solar system. The varying colors of the supernova are caused by glowing atoms.

(Photo : NASA/Getty Images)

Young stars are mysteriously disappearing from the Milky Way, according to recent reports. While there are an abundance of old stars, young stars called Cepheid Variable stars found at the center of the Milky Way galaxy have gone missing.

In a research published on Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, a team of Italian, South African, and Japanese astronomers state that a massive region in the center of the Milky Way is devoid of young stars.

These young stars, also called Cepheids, are measured in the hopes of understanding how the galaxy forms and evolves. Yet, with these stars missing from the galaxy, the mystery of the galaxy deepens.

"We already found some time ago that there are Cepheids in the central heart of our Milky Way (in a region about 150 light-years in radius). Now we find that outside this there is a huge Cepheid desert extending out to 8,000 light-years from the centre," says Noriyuki Matsunaga, the lead author from University of Tokyo.
Even with a number of stars found in the center of the galaxy, finding these particular set of Cepheids is difficult. For the research, astronomers used the South African Large Telescope (SALT) to see past the dust. Surprisingly, they found a region around 1,000 light-years wide from the center of the Milky Way galaxy with hardly any Cepheids.

Such findings state that the inner disk of the Milky Way galaxy contains no Cepheids. In addition, Guiseppe Bono adds that no star formation has occurred in the area for more than a hundreds of millions of years.

"Our conclusions are contrary to other recent work, but in line with the work of radio astronomers who see no new stars being born in this desert," explains Michael Feast, another co-author of the study.

For now, the missing young stars remain a mystery until new discovery and research breaks through.

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