Milky Way's core is a cosmic desert with no new stars, astronomers discover

By @ritwikroy1985 on
Milky Way
An expanding shell of debris called SNR 0519-69.0 is left behind after a massive star exploded in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy to the Milky Way, as seen in this undated NASA handout image released January 23, 2015. Reuters/NASA/CXC/SAO

Astronomers have reportedly discovered the most-desolate place in the Milky Way. The vast expanse right at the centre could well be a cosmic desert that is completely devoid of young stars. The new study by the international team of researchers promises to better the understanding of the entire Milky Way.

The new study, published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, revealed that the desolate spot extends for about 8,000 light years from the galactic core. It has not produced new stars for hundreds of millions of years. The team of astronomers, led by Noriyuki Matsunaga from the University of Tokyo, described the eerily barren place as stellar void.

A massive portion of space inside our galaxy’s Extreme Inner Disk has no young stars and it has been like that for a long time, the analysis revealed. Cepheids are among the youngest stars in the galaxy and they have an age range of 10 to 300 million years. Cepheids are easy to detect as they pulsate in a predictable pattern. The cycles also allow astronomers to analyse the age and distance of these new stars.

However, finding these Cepheids in the Extreme Inner Disk is difficult mainly because of the interstellar dust blocking the view. According to Gizmodo Australia, Matsunaga and his team of astronomers, in order to look through the dust, used a Japanese-South African telescope. Even near-infrared observations of the region failed to detect any Cepheids in the region.

The region is simply an eerie expanse of a huge Cepheid desert extending up to 8,000 light years from the centre. The Milky Way measures about 100,000 light years across. Thus, it’s a whole lot of space with nothing inside.

Now, the researchers will be studying the chemical composition and movement of new Cepheids to understand more about Milky Way’s formation and evolution and why our galaxy hosts such a barren core.