A new map of the Milky Way has revealed a surprising fact about the stars living in our galaxy - nearly a third have moved far from their stellar birthplace.
This discovery was made by astronomers using the Sloan Digital Sky Survey-III (SDSS), which spectroscopically linked chemical elements in stars with the locations within our galaxy known to be abundant in those specific elements. And it turns out that 30 percent of the stars surveyed have migrated far from home.
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"We were able to measure the properties of nearly 70,000 stars in our galaxy for this particular study using the innovative SDSS infrared spectrograph," Donald Schneider, of Penn State University, Pa., and study coauthor, said in a press release. "This exercise can be described as galactic archaeology. These data reveal the locations, motions, and compositions of the stars, which provide insights into their formation and their history."
As each population of stars are born and eventually die, heavier elements are can be found in the atmospheres of each progressive stellar population. The spectroscopic signature of any given star acts almost as rings can be used to age a tree, but for stars, the chemical fingerprint in their atmospheres can also reveal where and when they formed in our galaxy.