A stellar interloper in the Milky Way?


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The uncertainty of science: Astronomers have identified a star inside the Milky Way whose chemical compositions suggests it was formed and originally came from a nearby dwarf galaxy.

This is the first discovery of a star having such extreme abundance ratios among Milky Way stars. On the other hand, several examples of stars having similar abundance ratios are known in dwarf galaxies. This result suggests that this star has formed in a dwarf galaxy, and has accreted onto the Milky Way in the process of galaxy formation. The abundance ratios of this star provide the clearest signature of merger events of dwarf galaxies in stellar chemical abundances known to date.

Though presently unique, this star probably is not the only such interloper in the Milky Way. It is believed by astronomers that our galaxy has absorbed a number of dwarf galaxies as it formed and grew, so we should expect more such stars to be discovered with time.

At the same time, we also must exercise some skepticism. Our understanding of galaxy formation is very preliminary, and thus the astronomers might be assuming too much about the chemical composition of dwarf galaxies in coming to this conclusion.

Posted at Los Angeles Airport on my way to Cannon Beach, Oregon, for a short vacation with friends.

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