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Ah, babies. One day they're crawling about, just an innocent mass of gas and cosmic fuzz. The next they're standing on their own … swallowing another baby whole.
They grow up so fast.
Gist - Picture - Milky - Way - Galaxy
That's the gist of a new cosmic "baby picture" of the Milky Way galaxy, which reveals its humble origins, before it cannibalized another, smaller galaxy.
Run, Bear, Run!
Years - Collision - Galaxies - Dwarf - Galaxy
Approximately 10 billion years ago, a collision between two galaxies ended with one of them — a dwarf galaxy named Gaia-Enceladus — absorbed by the other, which was more than three times its size. Over millions of years, the massive cannibal absorbed its galactic meal to become the Milky Way as it is today: the spiral galaxy that we call home, and host to at least 100 billion stars.
Past work showed that the Milky Way merged with another galaxy, but scientists debated the timeline of the collision and aftermath. Recently, researchers estimated when the merger happened by mapping about 1 million stars from the galaxy's disk and inner halo — all within 6,500 light-years from the sun — using data from Gaia, a space telescope launched in 2013 by the European Space Agency (ESA).
Galaxies - Clues - Mergers - Billions - Years
Other distant galaxies bear clues about mergers that happened billions of years ago, visible as distortions in a galaxy's overall shape. But it's hard to see that in the Milky Way because we're inside it, said lead study author Carme Gallart, a research scientist with the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands.
Detecting the Milky Way's long-ago merger meant tracking how different groups of stars moved relative to each other and then examining the differences in the groups' chemical makeup, Gallart told Live Science in an email.
Stars - Ages - Astrophysicists - Measure - Properties
To figure out stars' ages, astrophysicists measure properties such as color and brightness, using computer simulations to map them to different star evolution stages....
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