The study is based on the recent Gaia Data Release 2. This provided the astronomical community with accurate information on the position and movement of millions of stars, mostly in the Milky Way. PhD student Helmer Koppelman is part of the research group of Professor of Dynamics, Structure and Formation of the Milky Way Amina Helmi, who has been involved in the Gaia mission almost from its inception. He started analyzing the data right after the release and published a preprint of the article just eight days later. This has now been officially published.
'Our aim is to study how the Milky Way has evolved', says Koppelman. The idea is that smaller galaxies merge to form larger ones. 'One of the questions is whether a lot of small galaxies merge or a few large ones.' As most stars in the Milky Way's halo -- the spherical cloud of stars surrounding the main disk and bulge of our galaxy -- are thought to be remnants of merger events, Koppelman and his colleagues focused on halo stars in the Gaia data.
Information - Stars - Years - Sun - Accuracy
'We collected information from stars within 3,000 light years of the Sun, as the accuracy of the position and movement is highest for stars that are near us', Koppelman explains. The first step was to filter out the stars from the Milky Way disk. 'These stars move around the centre of the disk, so are easily identified.'...
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