Stellar Nursery is Discovered on the Fringes of the Milky Way Galaxy

First Posted: Mar 02, 2015 11:28 AM EST

NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has spotted a stellar nursery that's essentially in the middle of nowhere. The cluster of stars is forming at the very edge of the Milky Way galaxy.

"A stellar nursery in what seems to be the middle of nowhere is quite surprising," said Peter Eisenhardt, project scientist for the WISE mission, in a news release. "But surprises turn up when you look everywhere, as the WISE survey did."

The researchers used the infrared survey images from WISE and discovered two clusters of stars thousands of light-years below the galactic disk. The stars live in dense clumps of gas called giant molecular clouds. In fact, this is the first time that astronomers have witnessed stars being born in such a remote location.

"Our work shows that the space around the galaxy is a lot less empty than we thought," said Denilso Camargo, one of the researchers, in a news release. "The new clusters of stars are truly exotic. In a few million years, any inhabitants of planets around the stars will have a grand view of the outside of the Milky Way, something no human being will probably ever experience."

The findings reveal that these exotic stars are not only possible, but may not be all that rare. As additional sky surveys are conducted, scientists are learning more and more about the galaxy and the universe we live in.

"Now we want to understand how the ingredients for making stars made it to such a distant spot," said Camargo. "We need more data and some serious work on computer models to try to answer this question."

The findings are published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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