A brand new method to measure the age of the Milky Approach

Like many different spiral galaxies within the Universe, the Milky Approach Galaxy consists of two disc-shaped constructions – the skinny disc and the thick disc. The thick disk, which envelops the skinny disk, comprises about 20% of the celebrities of the Milky Approach and is taken into account the oldest of the pair because of the composition of its stars (which have a larger metallicity) and its nature. extra inflated.

Nonetheless, in a current research, a crew of 38 scientists led by researchers from the Australian ARC Middle of Excellence for Three-dimensional Sky Astrophysics (ASTRO-3D) used information from the Kepler mission, in the present day retired, to measure the star tremors within the Disk of the Milky Approach. From there, they revised the official estimates of the age of the Milky Approach thick disk, which they conclude is about 10 billion years previous.

The research that describes their findings – entitled "The K2-HERMES survey: age and metallicity of the thick disk" – was just lately printed within the month-to-month notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The analysis crew was led by Dr. Sanjib Sharma of the Sydney Institute of Astronomy and the ARC Middle of Excellence for Astrophysics of the Sky in three-dimensional (ASTRO-3D) and included members from a number of universities and analysis institutes.

Artist's view of the Milky Approach, exhibiting thick and skinny discs. Credit score: NASA / JPL Caltech / R.Damage / SSC

To find out the age of the thick disc, Dr. Sharma and his crew used a way referred to as asteroseismology. This includes measuring the oscillations of a star brought on by star tremors, the place star crusts endure sudden shifts much like earthquakes. This course of permits researchers to conduct a "galactic archeology", the place they will hint again in time to the formation of the Milky Approach (greater than 13 billion years in the past).

As Dennis Stello – an affiliate professor on the College of New South Wales and co-author of the research – defined, this allowed them to find out the inner constructions of One star:

"Earthquakes generate sound waves inside the celebrities that make them ring or vibrate. The frequencies produced inform us concerning the inside properties of stars, together with their age. It's a bit like figuring out a violin as a Stradivarius by listening to the sound that it produces. "

It is very important notice that astronomers should not capable of detect the precise "sounds" generated by stars. As a substitute, the actions inside a star are measured in accordance with the brightness adjustments of a star. Beforehand, astronomers had famous that the observations made by the Kepler mission didn’t conform to fashions of the construction of the Milky Approach – which predicted that the thick disk would include extra low-mass stars.

Till now, it was unclear whether or not this discrepancy was because of inaccuracies within the galactic fashions, or to an issue within the standards for star choice. With the assistance of latest information from the K2 mission, Sharma and her colleagues found that it was the primary. Principally, earlier galactic fashions assumed that the thick disk was populated with low mass and low metallicity stars.

Artist design of a star tremor cracking the floor of a neutron star. Credit score: Darlene McElroy of LANL

Nonetheless, utilizing information from the K2 mission to carry out a brand new spectroscopic evaluation, Dr. Sharma and his crew decided that the chemical composition integrated into the prevailing fashions was incorrect, resulting in estimates inaccurate of their age. With this in thoughts, Dr. Sharma and his crew have efficiently aligned aseismic information with galactic mannequin predictions. As defined by Dr. Sharma:

"This discovery clears up a thriller … Earlier information on the age distribution of the celebrities within the disk didn’t agree with the fashions constructed to explain it, however nobody knew the place was the # 39 – error – within the information or fashions Now we’re nearly positive to have discovered it. "

Since its launch in 2009, information collected by the Kepler mission counsel that there have been many extra youthful stars within the thick disc than the fashions had anticipated. Though it was not primarily designed to carry out astroarchaeology, its potential to measure adjustments in brightness of a star (apparently because of planetary transits) is properly fitted to measure the quakes of stars.

"Stars are simply spherical devices filled with fuel, however their vibrations are tiny, so now we have to look very rigorously," mentioned Sharma. "Kepler's beautiful gentle measurements had been ideally suited for that. The telescope was so delicate that it may have detected the dimming of a automobile headlight whereas a flea was crossing it. "

These outcomes present that even after the failure of two of his response wheels in 2013, Kepler was nonetheless capable of conduct worthwhile observations as a part of his K2 marketing campaign. The outcomes of this research are additionally a robust indication of the analytical energy of asteroseismology and its potential to estimate the age of stars. New revelations are anticipated as scientists proceed to disseminate information obtained by the mission earlier than it ceases operations in November 2018.

The evaluation of this information might be mixed with new data collected by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite tv for pc (TESS) – Kepler's non secular successor, which took house simply seven months earlier than Kepler's departure . This data will additional enhance the age estimates for much more stars within the disc and assist astronomers study extra concerning the formation and the evolution of the Milky Approach.

Additional studying: EurekaAlert !, MNRAS

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