The Milky Way’s most distant stars


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Astronomers have discovered the two most distant stars of the Milky Way.

Both stars are red giants, aging suns that shine so brightly observers can see them from afar. One star is about 890,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Pisces—33 times farther from the Milky Way’s center than we are and well beyond the edge of the galactic disk. The only other Milky Way member at a comparable distance is a small galaxy named Leo I, which orbits ours at a distance of 850,000 light-years. If the star in Pisces revolves on a circular path as fast as we do, it takes some eight billion years to complete a single orbit around the galaxy. That’s more than half the age of the universe.

The other newfound star is about 780,000 light-years distant in the constellation Gemini and more than a million light-years from the other star. For comparison, the previous record-breaking individual star was only about half a million light-years from Earth.

Both stars are so far outside the galaxy’s disk that it is quite possible that they are not part of the Milky Way at all.

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