New work from Carnegie’s Jonathan Gagné and the American Museum of Natural History’s Jacqueline Faherty identified nearly a thousand potential members and 31 confirmed members of stellar associations — stars of similar ages and compositions that are drifting together through space — in our own corner of the Milky Way. Their work, published in the Astrophysical Journal, could help astronomers understand the evolution of stars and the properties of future exoplanet discoveries.
“Like a swarm of birds flying together in the sky, the common velocities of stars in an association tell us that they are related,” Gagné explained. “This teaches us something about their age and their compositions,”
Because of the internal similarities between group members and external differences between different groups, astronomers can use stellar associations to glean information about the history of star formation in our corner of the Milky Way. These stars’ ages vary from a few million to a billion years old, a range that offers astronomers a sweeping view of stellar evolution among our neighbours.
The team combed through data from the European Space Agency’s three-dimensional mapping mission of our galaxy, Gaia, to discover this goldmine of confirmed and potential group members.