New stars `spotted` in Milky Way

The new "Aquarius Stream" is named after the constellation of Aquarius in which it resides.

Last Updated: Feb 07, 2011, 11:13 AM IST

London: Planetary scientists claim to have discovered a new stream of stars in the Milky Way, the galaxy in which the Solar System is located.

The international study, led by Dr Mary Williams of the Astrophysical Institute Potsdam, is part of the Radial Velocity Experiment (RAVE) and used data from Siding Spring Observatory to measure the velocities of 250,000 stars.

The new "Aquarius Stream" is named after the constellation of Aquarius in which it resides.

The stream of stars is a remnant of a smaller galaxy in our cosmic neighbourhood, which was pulled apart by the gravitational pull of the Milky Way about 700 million
years ago.

Dr Williams said the Aquarius Stream was particularly hard to find, located deep within the Milky Way where it was indistinguishable from the huge quantity of stars blocking our view of it.

"It was right on our doorstep, but we just couldn`t see it," she said.

The astronomers used the RAVE data to draw conclusions about the formation of the Milky Way. She said that by astronomical standards, the 700-million-year-old
Aquarius stream is exceptionally young.

Other known streams of stars located on the outskirts of our galaxy are billions of years old.

PTI