Astronomers Now Know Exactly How Old Our Milky Way Galaxy Is

Scientists have officially estimated the most accurate age of our home galaxy to date, claiming that the Milky Way started to form just 800 million years after the Big Bang.

According to researchers, the most established cosmic dust settled at the center of our galaxy about 13 billion years ago, while the outer edge of its pinwheel arms was formed by a collision with the Gaia-Enceladus galaxy, a dwarf galaxy that merged with the Milky Way between 8 and 11 billion years ago.

The results, collated by astronomers Maosheng Xiang and Hans-Walter Rix of the Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy, were published in the journal Nature on Wednesday. They used a scan of roughly a quarter-million stars ranging in age from 13.8 billion to 15 billion years old to trace the expansion of our galaxy by cross-referencing their lifecycles with the movement of the Milky Way.

Xiang and Rix focused their telescopes on low-mass stars like our sun during its midlife, or "sub-giant" period, when the light produced by their inflating hydrogen enables us to better see and predict their future life cycle.

“With an innovative approach to estimating the birth dates of stars, Xiang and Rix have succeeded in helping us to better understand how our galaxy formed,” said University of Notre Dame physicist Timothy Beers in an editorial tied to the new report. “And the approach is scalable, which means that, as data for larger samples of stars in the Milky Way become available, this picture will come into even sharper focus,” 


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