HomePOPULARMilky Way's Ancient Relics Unveiled: Meet Shiva and Shakti

Milky Way’s Ancient Relics Unveiled: Meet Shiva and Shakti

In a remarkable astronomical revelation, relics dating back to the Milky Way’s infancy have emerged, hidden in the depths of our galactic home. Astrophysicists Khyati Malhan and Hans Walter-Rix of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy have unveiled two ancient streams of stars, christened Shiva and Shakti, encircling the heart of the Milky Way.

These ancient streams, discovered through meticulous analysis of data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia telescope, offer a rare glimpse into the formative years of our galaxy. Shiva and Shakti are believed to have existed over 12-13 billion years ago, predating the Milky Way’s spiral arms and representing the nascent tendrils of stars extending into the cosmic void.

Gaia’s unprecedented precision in mapping the Milky Way’s stellar population has enabled the detection of these archaic structures. By analyzing stars’ 3D positions, velocities, and metallicity, astronomers can discern distinct stellar groups that betray their ancient origins. Shiva and Shakti, characterized by their antiquity and low metal content, stand as testament to the Milky Way’s primordial past.

Each stream, with a mass equivalent to 10 million Suns, traces elliptical and circular orbits around the galactic center. Shiva, nestled closer to the core, exhibits more elongated paths, while Shakti’s stars follow gentler, circular trajectories. Their distinct structures suggest they originated as separate entities that later merged with the nascent Milky Way, fueling its growth and expansion.

The discovery of Shiva and Shakti sheds light on the galaxy’s formative processes, elucidating how it evolved from its embryonic state into the majestic spiral we behold today. As Gaia continues to unveil the Milky Way’s enigmatic past, astronomers are poised to unravel more mysteries, painting a richer portrait of our cosmic heritage.

“This revelation of ancient structures within our galaxy underscores Gaia’s pivotal role in galactic archaeology,” remarks Gaia project scientist Timo Prusti of the European Space Agency. “By delving into the subtle nuances of our stellar neighbors, we unlock the secrets of our galactic genesis, bridging the gap between past and present in the cosmic tapestry.”

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