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The Milky Way cannibalised a galaxy one quarter of its current mass ten billion years ago, according to new research.
It comes from a study designed to detect and age stars when it found the large galaxy, called Gaia-Enceladus, was engulfed by the Milky Way.
Smaller - Galaxies - Ones - Milky - Way
Smaller galaxies often merge to create bigger ones but when this happened in the Milky Way has long been debated.
Carme Gallart, from the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias in Spain, and colleagues have built what they say is an accurate image of the age distribution of stars in the current disk and inner halo of the Milky Way.
Majority - Stars - Halo - Milky - Way
They find the majority of stars in the halo of the Milky Way closer to the Sun have ages ranging up to 10 billion years old.
Using simulations, the authors identified this as the point when the precursor of the Milky Way merged with one of its then companions, Gaia-Enceladus.
Ration - Cold - Researchers - Finding - Uncertainty
However the true ration cold be vastly different and the researchers say the finding comes with significant uncertainty.
But it would indicate a total mass ratio of around 4:1 between the two galaxies, given the relation between stellar mass and total mass.
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