Milky Way star graveyard revealed in new detailed space observation

A new clear image of the Milky Way has revealed a galaxygraveyard” containing the remnants of about two dozen exploding stars.

These remnants are an expanding cloud of gas and dust that mark a star’s last phase in life after it explodes in a supernova.

While previous studies have estimated that there are likely five times as many such star remnants as currently observed, researchers, including Andrew Hopkins from Macquarie University in Australia say the number observed using radio telescopes have been “too low”.

The new yet-to-be-published research, combined observations made by Australia’s ASKAP radio telescope and the Parkes radio telescope, Murriyang, to shed more light on the dead stars.

Researchers found “thin tendrils and clumpy clouds” in the space between a number of stars in the Milky Way suggesting there are indeed more supernova remnants.

The new image, showcasing the birth and death places of stars, is the most detailed radio image yet of our galaxy, according to scientists.

It revealed about 20 new possible star remnants, while only seven were previously known.

Professor Andrew Hopkins, one of the project’s lead scientist from Macquarie University in Australia, says the image shows the galactic plane in its “finest detail yet”.

It shows a region of the Milky Way where there is “extended emission associated with hydrogen gas filling the space between dying stars, related to the birth of new stars, and hot bubbles of gas called supernova remnants”, he said.

“In just this small patch, only about one per cent of the whole Milky Way, we have discovered more than 20 new possible supernova remnants where only seven were previously known,” Dr Hopkins wrote in The Conversation.

The never-before-seen detailed observations made in the study were possible thanks to the combination of data from different telescopes.

Australia’s ASKAP radio telescope consists of 36 relatively small dishes, each 12m wide that mimic a single large telescope with a 6km wide dish.

While it comes with good resolution, researchers say it misses radio emission from star regions on the largest scales.

So scientists combined forces with another project called Pegasus led by Ettore Carretti of Italy’s National Institute of Astrophysics.

This project uses the Parkes/Murriyang telescope, which is one of the world’s largest single-dish radio telescopes.

PhD student Brianna Ball from Canada’s University of Alberta conducted the work along with her supervisor, Roland Kothes.

They combined the Pegasus map with that from the Australian teams revealing star remnants in the Milky Way with “extremely high precision and accuracy”.

Using the approach to generate high-quality images of the sky, scientists believe astronomers can firm up their understanding of the Galaxy and beyond with future observations.

“The eventual results will be an unprecedented view of almost the entire Milky Way, about a hundred times larger than this initial image, but achieving the same level of detail and sensitivity,” Dr Hopkins said.


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