An example of a globular cluster, Omega Centauri (NGC 5139) in the constellation of Centaurus. .
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
In a recent study, three new globular clusters were discovered in the middle of the Milky Way, providing important data for astronomers about the history of our galaxy.
The new findings were part of a star cluster - a spherical grouping of stars that orbits a galaxy - and were named Camargo 1107, 1108 and 1109, respectively. By using a special technique of photometry, whereby photons and electromagnetic radiation are used to measure light waves, scientists were able to first observe the clusters.
Globular clusters lend valuable insight into the ways the Milky Way was formed due to their primordial traits. The fact that this cluster was found located towards the middle part of the galaxy - in the bulge - may contain evolutionary clues that may account for the early content of the universe, as well as details about its structure and the motion of its objects.
Uncovering this formation was largely puzzling to scientists, since these clusters are mainly obscured by interstellar dust and stars, giving them a weak luminosity.
These "bulges" were discovered by Edwin Hubble in the 1940s. There are several different types, including pseudo or disk-like and classic, as in this case. Rampant celestial phenomena such as the merging of galaxies, or the sinking of giant clumps of gas which contain older star populations are believed to have led to the formation of classical-type bulges. On the other hand, flattened disk-like bulges, may have evolved due to instabilities in their structure over a longer period of time, allowing them to be stretched out.
Globular clusters are one of the earliest remnants of the universe, and may help scientists reconstruct the many physical and chemical processes that the Milky Way has gone through, providing clues of how it formed.
These three new clusters are noteworthy due to their age and deficiencies in metal-like substances. One suggestion may be that perhaps the galaxy has extended beyond its original constructs, showing proof how it has either grown - due to the buildup of stars in the center - or stretched over time.
Additionally, such clusters may be remnants of primordial stellar groups that may impart details about the Big Bang. In particular, it may shed light on the reionization period, where elemental gases - such as hydrogen and helium underwent fundamental changes. Put another way, during a certain phase of the Big Bang, light was powerful enough to remove electrons from surrounding matter, causing different electrical charges to be changed at the atomic level.
The discovery of these globular clusters can be understood as fossils of our early universe. By providing details of how our galaxy was formed, perhaps scientists can understand how it evolved - and continues to evolve - over time.
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