"Galaxy Blue" by Souricette-du-13 / CC BY-SA 4.0

Astronomers Find Fossils of Early Universe Stuffed in Milky Way’s Bulge

Mar 25, 2019

By Brandon Specktor

Astronomers peered into the dusky bulge of the Milky Way and found some of the oldest known stars in the universe.

In a study to be published in the April 2019 issue of the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, researchers analyzed a cluster of old, dim stars called HP1, located about 21,500 light-years away from Earth in the gut of our galaxy’s central bulge. Using observations from Chile’s Gemini South telescope and archival Hubble Space Telescope data, the researchers calculated the age of the stars to be roughly 12.8 billion years old — making them some of the oldest stars ever detected in either the Milky Way or the universe at large.

“These are also some of the oldest stars we’ve seen anywhere,” study co-author Stefano Souza, a doctoral candidate at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, said in a statement.

The Milky Way’s bulge — a bulbous, 10,000 light-year-wide region of stars and dust popping out of the galaxy’s spiral disc — is thought to contain some of the oldest stars in the galaxy.

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