Heidelberg – A revolutionary age map that features the Milky Way was designed by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany. Its development seems to be very important since it is fundamental to understand the formation of the galaxy. To make it real, researchers analyzed the composition and masses of huge red stars in order to determine its age.

Scientists concluded that the Milky Way galaxy grew from the inside out, since it was discovered after making measures, that older stars are usually located close to the center of the spiral galaxy and relatively contemporary stars can be found around the edges of the galaxy that contains the solar system.

The colored dots over the Milky Way reveal the location and ages of stars in the galaxy. The red dots show the older stars, while blue dots show younger generations of stars. Credit: Space

“Measuring the individual ages of stars from their spectra and combining them with chemical information, offers the most powerful constraints in the galaxy,” said Melissa Ness, a researcher from the Max Planck Institute. “This is key to understanding galaxy formation,” she added at a conference on Friday, at the 227th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Kissimmee, Florida.

The method researchers used to analyze the stars is considered to be revolutionary, as they utilized the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), which is a complex survey that has a dedicated optical telescope. The SDSS, which is located in New Mexico at the Apache Observatory, has created very detailed 3D maps of the universe.

It was explained at the press conference that the team led by Ness determined the age and location of 70,000 red giant stars. However, in order to discover the age of such a big amount of stars, its mass was needed to be measured, so researchers used data from NASA, taken by the Kepler space telescope.

That being said, the astronomers were able to design a map which shows how the spiral galaxy of the Milky Way developed its form in a process that took billions of years. Melissa Ness, who works in understanding the formation history of the Milky Way, said that the 3D map was somewhat revolutionary. She added that ages of the stars had been considered very hard to get in the previous years by researchers of the field.

Ness added that our galaxy grew, and it grew up by growing out, since the first 13-billion-year-old stars determined the place where the younger stars developed later, and all together formed the growing disk with spiral arms of space dust and stars.

Source: Space