'Old smokers' and newborn stars are detected in the Milky Way, study says

An international team of astronomers from the United Kingdom, Chile, South Korea, Brazil, Germany and Italy detected a new type of star hidden in the universe, affectionately nicknamed 'old smoker'. In a statement, they claim they have also discovered dozens of newborn stars; both discoveries were located in a distant region in the heart of the Milky Way.

According to a new study published in the scientific journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, The 'old smoker' is a type of giant, elderly red star detected in the heart of our galaxy.

The researchers explain that this category of star can remain inactive for tens of years until they begin to expel clouds of smoke; something that is not considered so conventional, compared to the current standards of cosmology.

The illustration presents the appearance of an 'old smoker' red star.The illustration presents the appearance of an 'old smoker' red star.Source: Philip Lucas / University of Hertfordshire

Led by Professor Philip Lucas, from the University of Hertfordshire, England, the research used data collected for around ten years. From data from the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope (VISTA), scientists analyzed nearly a billion stars emitting infrared wavelengths. In other words, the discovery of the 'old smoker' was almost like finding a needle in a haystack.

“Our main goal was to find rarely seen newborn stars, also called protostars, while they are undergoing a huge explosion that can last months, years or even decades. These explosions happen in the slowly rotating disk of matter that is forming a new solar system. They help the newborn star in the middle grow, but hinder the formation of planets. We still don't understand why disks become unstable like this,” said one of the study's authors, Dr. Zhen Guo, associate from the University of Valparaíso, in Chile.

Newborn stars

For the first time, researchers have managed to detect this mysterious object in the heart of the Milky Way known as 'old smokers', almost disappearing until it begins to expel clouds of smoke. Additionally, they discovered newborn stars, or protostars; In total, there were 32 objects of this type with a brightness magnified by at least 40 times — in some cases, they shone up to 300 times more.

The team captured the red star using data emitted by infrared waves.The team captured the red star using data emitted by infrared waves.Source: Philip Lucas / University of Hertfordshire

Scientists explain that protostars suffered large explosions during the formation of new solar systems. They are not visible to the naked eye, as they are hidden by large amounts of dust and gas, but they become visible through their infrared wave emissions.

As for 'old smokers', they found 21 of them close to the center of the Milky Way. The study's researchers suggest that the discovery could help with a better understanding of how elements are distributed in space.

“Matter ejected from ancient stars plays a fundamental role in the life cycle of elements, helping to form the next generation of stars and planets. This was thought to occur mainly in a well-studied type of star called the Mira variable. However, the discovery of a new type of star that releases matter may have broader significance for the spread of heavy elements in the Nuclear Disk. [da Via Láctea] and in metal-rich regions of other galaxies”, said Professor Lucas.

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