Astronomers Just Found a Huge Void in the Milky Way

Source: The University of Tokyo

Our understanding of the Milky Way galaxy just got turned upside down. 

Astronomers have found a chunk of the center of our galaxy that is completely devoid of any young, pulsing stars called cepheids, according to new research

Yep, our Milky Way has a bald spot.

Dust clouds in the Milky Way
Source: NASA

There are billions of stars that make up our entire galaxy. Studying the distribution of those stars helps astronomers figure out the galaxy's structure. Cepheids are especially useful because it's easy to measure how bright they are and figure out how far away they are. They help us map out material in the galaxy and understand how it evolved over time. 

This newly discovered bare patch without cepheids could mean that we have our Milky Way history all wrong. 

"We already found some while ago that there are cepheids in the central heart of our Milky Way (in a region about 150 light-years in radius)," astronomer Noriyuki Matsunaga explained in a statement. "Now we find that outside this, there is a huge cepheid desert extending out to 8,000 light-years from the center."

Illustration of the center of our galaxy
Source: University of Tokyo

That means there's a huge swath of the Milky Way that isn't producing new stars.

"The current results indicate that there has been no significant star formation in this large region over hundreds of millions years," astronomer Giuseppe Bono said.

The research could help us get a better idea of how the Milky Way formed.

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