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Milky Way inside-out: Emerging theory suggests Milky Way expanded from center

A Milky Way inside-out theory is beginning to emerge among space experts this week after new evidence is pointing to the idea that the Milky Way may have formed from a center point that expanded outward. Although astronomers from Europe — who are the primary proponents of this theory — note that much investigation still remains to be done, but early studies are suggesting that this idea is indeed plausible. UPI News provides the updates on this interesting space story this Monday, Jan. 20, 2014.

Photo of the Milky Way out in space
Photo of the Milky Way out in spaceCourtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Milky Way inside-out hypothesis comes from the European Southern Observatory telescope center in Chile. Experts there are now under the impression that many of the ancient stars within the Solar Circle — the title given to the orbit of our sun around the vast center of the Milky Way, which is believed to take over 250 million years to finish in one full cycle — likely have massive magnesium levels, which suggests this region held a number of stores “that lived strong and fast, but died young” in the distant past.

By closely tracking the specific amounts of individual chemical elements found within the star, other than the primary elements helium and hydrogen, astronomers believe that an accurate determination of how fast and in what particular way different areas of the Milky Way were created.

"The different chemical elements of which stars — and we — are made are created at different rates -- some in massive stars, which live fast and die young, and others in sun-like stars, with more sedate multibillion-year lifetimes," Gerry Gilmore, lead investigator on the Gaia-ESO Project, said.

According to the theory’s report on a Milky Way inside-out formation, the most notable distinctions in stellar evolution point to the onset of highly brief yet efficient star birth timescales within the Solar Circle. Those stars outside of the star’s orbit, however, are believed to have formed in a much slower process. Researchers find this very indicative of the way in which this space sight (essentially from a center focal point and spanning outward) was thus formed millions upon millions of years ago.

"We have been able to shed new light on the timescale of chemical enrichment across the Milky Way disc, showing that outer regions of the disc take a much longer time to form," study leader Maria Bergemann from Cambridge University's Institute of Astronomy said.