ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) has noticed the central a part of the Milky Way with spectacular resolution and uncovered new details in regards to the history of star birth in our galaxy. Due to the new observations, astronomers have discovered proof for a dramatic event within the life of the Milky Way – a burst of star formation is so intense that it resulted in over a hundred thousand supernova explosions.
Within the research, revealed today in Nature Astronomy, the group discovered that about 80% of the stars within the Milky Way central region formed within the beginning years of the galaxy, between 8 and 13.5 billion years ago. This starting period of star formation was followed by about six billion years throughout which only a few stars have been born, and this was brought to an end by an intense burst of star formation around 1 billion years ago when, over a period of fewer than 100 million years, stars with a combined mass probably as high as just a few tens of million Suns formed on this central region.
This research was possible because of observations of the Galactic central region carried out with ESO’s HAWK-I instrument on the VLT within the Chilean Atacama Desert. This infrared-sensitive camera peered by means of the dust to provide us a remarkably detailed image of the Milky Way’s central region, revealed in October in Astronomy & Astrophysics by Nogueras-Lara and a group of astronomers from Spain, the US, Japan, and Germany.
The survey studied over 3 million stars, covering an area corresponding to more than 60 000 square light-years on the distance of the Galactic center.