Astronomers have found massive, prehistoric stars in our galaxy known as “old smokers.”
Scientists have detected an enigmatic cluster of large, aging stars located in the center of our galaxy, emitting massive clouds of dust and gas comparable to the size of our solar system.
During a 10-year survey of the night sky, nearly a billion stars were monitored in infrared light. Among them were “old smokers”, which had remained quiet and almost invisible for many years before suddenly emitting huge clouds of smoke. This discovery was made through careful monitoring.
“The matter is being rapidly ejected from their position,” stated Professor Philip Lucas of the University of Hertfordshire, who was in charge of the research. “These stars are of a novel variety, and they are concentrated in a specific area near the center of our Milky Way galaxy.”
The scientists embarked on a mission to photograph rarely observed protostars, also known as newborn stars, as they experienced a rapid growth phase. These young stars rapidly gain mass by consuming surrounding gas from star formation, causing a sudden surge in brightness.
The group monitored a large number of stars and pinpointed 32 protostars that experienced significant increases in brightness, ranging from 40 to over 300 times.
A new discovery was made when a group of red giant stars in the center of the Milky Way were analyzed. Despite not being initially expected, further examination using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope revealed that seven of the stars were actually a previously unidentified type of red giant called “old smokers”. According to researcher Lucas, these stars may release large clouds of smoke due to internal convection currents and instabilities.
“I believe these are clouds the size of our solar system,” stated Lucas. “Based on our estimation, they could be clusters of dust moving in a single direction, potentially originating from a specific area on the star’s surface.”
The results have broader implications as the substances emitted into outer space by dying stars lay the foundation for future generations of stars.
Lucas stated that the finding of a novel star variety that emits matter could potentially have broader implications for the dispersal of heavy elements in the nuclear disc and metal-rich areas within galaxies.
The results have been released in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.