An international team of astronomers has discovered a new stream of stars in our Milky Way. The stream of stars is named the "Aquarius Stream" after the Aquarius constellation where it is located.
The Aquarius Stream has been found by the Radial Velocity Experiment (RAVE) research team led by Dr Mary Williams of the Astrophysical Institute Potsdam (AIP). RAVE is a multinational project, involving scientists from Australia, Germany, France, UK, Italy, Canada, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Slovenia and the USA.
Dr William’s team has used data collected at the Australian Siding Spring Observatory to measure the velocity of 250,000stars as part of the research. On their website the Australian National University (ANU) said Dr Williams describes the Aquarius Stream as hard to find and located deep within the Milky Way. She says “It was right on our doorstep, but we just couldn’t see it.”
The Aquarius Stream is a remnant of a smaller galaxy that was pulled apart when it dynamically collided with our own Milky Way about 700 million of years ago. According to the ANU the Aquarius stream is a baby when compared to other known streams of stars that are billions of years old. This makes the new Aquarius Stream a very unique and special find for Astronomers.
Astronomers are using this research to learn more about how galaxies are formed and the ANU says:
“While much about the galaxy surrounding our planet Earth remains unknown, astronomers are certain about one thing: the Milky Way’s next huge collision will be with the Andromeda galaxy. This cosmic collision is predicted to take place in about three billion years – unless one of the dwarf galaxies discovered over the past few years beats Andromeda to it.”
The Message to Eagle website has a good visualisation of what the Aquarius Stream might look like.