OUT OF THIS WORLD DISCOVERY: How Tucson astronomers played a part in finding a new stellar system

Published: Jun. 18, 2022 at 10:05 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A discovery that’s truly out of this world. Astronomers at the University of Arizona have helped identify five examples of a new class stellar system.

But, what does that mean? According to Dr. Mike Jones, a postdoctoral fellow in the University of Arizona Steward Observatory, he said it’s “not quite a galaxy” and only exists in isolation.

Jones and other researchers on the team are calling the stellar systems “blue blobs.” The little blobs are about the size of tiny dwarf galaxies and are located within the relatively nearby Virgo galaxy cluster.

The five systems are separated from any potential parent galaxies by over 300,000 light years in some cases, making it challenging to identify their origins.

“They’re made up of exclusively of blue stars, young blue stars,” Jones said.

He went on to say that the discovery actually happened by accident.

“We had this map of gas clouds that we thought were near our own galaxy. And professor [David] Sand, who I worked with at U of A, started searching for stars that could be born in these gas clouds. And, when he found the first object, it was realized that it wasn’t near the Milky Way at all.”

Jones and his team obtained their observations from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Very Large Array telescope in New Mexico and the Very Large Telescope in Chile. With these findings, Jones attended the 240th American Astronomical Society meeting in Pasadena, California to help further advance the study of space.

According to Jones’ research, he thinks that one day these systems will eventually split off into individual clusters of stars and spread out across the larger galaxy cluster. He added that this discovery was just a small piece to a very large puzzle, that continues to be put together to help better understand space and beyond.

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