Our galaxy isn’t as thoroughly mixed as scientists sometimes assume, consistent with a new study.
In the new work, scientists used Hubble Space Telescope and the Very Large Telescope in Chile to map the metal in dust across Milky Way galaxy in hopes of improving models describing the galaxy’s history.
“Initially, when the Milky Way was formed, more than 10 billion years ago, it had no metals,” Annalisa De Cia, an astronomer at University of Geneva in Switzerland & lead author on the new research, said in a statement.
“The stars gradually enriched the environment with the metals, they produced.”
That enrichment occurs because, deep inside star’s core, atoms smash together to slowly form increasingly heavy kind of matter, all the way-up through iron.
Not all stars explode once they run-out of the material that fuels the process, but the stars that do go boom toss all those metals out into their cosmic neighborhoods, theoretically, where the metals can mix in with the rest of the Milky Way.
And traditionally, scientific models assumed that the blending process is quite effective, consistent with the statement. The new observations, which targeted dust near 25 different stars, suggest which may not be the case, and that instead, there are stark local differences in metal levels.
As a result, scientists may have to reevaluate their understanding of the Milky Way galaxy’s history, researchers said.
The research published in the journal Nature.