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About 10 billion years ago, a young and reckless Milky Way crashed head-on into the sausage-shaped galaxy next door, and neither star system was ever the same.
"As the smaller galaxy broke up [following the crash], its stars were thrown onto very radial orbits," study author and University of Cambridge astronomer Wyn Evanssaid in a statement. "These Sausage stars [that is, stars with a long, tight orbit] are what’s left of the last major merger of the Milky Way."
What is Manhattanhenge?
What is Manhattanhenge? Sunsets in New York City can be spectacular, but during certain days in May and July, the alignment of Earth and the sun creates an unusually striking phenomenon known as "Manhattanhenge," when the setting sun lines up within the grid layout of the city streets.
Data - Space - Agency - Gaia - Spacecraft
Using data collected primarily by the European Space Agency's Gaia spacecraft, which launched in 2013 to create a 3D portrait of about 2 billion stars in the Milky Way (which is about 1 percent of the total stars estimated to be blazing through our galaxy), the researchers looked at the precise orbital movement of several hundred thousand stars whose trajectories seemed slightly out of place compared to their galactic neighbors.
When mapping the velocities of the stars in the Milky Way, one group has a distinctly sausage-like shape. These stars may be the result of an intergalactic collision that happened 10 billion years ago, astronomers say.
Stars - Question - Orbits - Researchers - Place
The stars in question had extremely narrow, "needle-like" orbits, the researchers said, suggesting they may have all originated from the same place and entered into similar orbits when the Milky Way wrenched them from their host galaxy's pull.
These "Sausage stars" all follow a similar path, swooping toward the galactic center before making tight U-turns and swooping out again toward the halo of scattered dust and stars at the edge of...
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