June 25, 2024

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The last major act of cannibalism in the Milky Way was surprisingly recent

The last major act of cannibalism in the Milky Way was surprisingly recent

New findings from the Gaia Space Telescope suggest that the Milky Way may have eaten a young galaxy not long ago, in cosmic terms. In fact, the last major collision between our galaxy and another galaxy appears to have occurred Billions Years later than previously expected.

The Milky Way has long been known to have grown through a series of violent collisions, which tore apart small galaxies due to the massive gravitational influence of our solar system’s spiral home. These collisions distribute stars from the devouring galaxy across the halo surrounding the Milky Way’s main disk and its distinctive spiral arms. These bouts of galactic cannibalism also send “wrinkles” rippling across the Milky Way and affecting different “families” of stars, of different origins, in different ways.