Geneva – Surprise: the basic theory on the Milky Way is contradicted


A team from Unige discovered that the composition of our Galaxy was not homogeneous, contrary to what we thought. This calls into question the evolutionary models of galaxies.

Artist’s impression: Clouds and currents of pristine cosmic gas (magenta) are accreting over the Milky Way, but this gas does not mix efficiently in the galactic disk, as is evident for the solar neighborhood (zoom before)

Dr Mark A. Garlick

Until now, astronomers believed that three elements – gases and metals – were mixed together evenly in the Milky Way. This model was the one used to explain the history and evolution of our Galaxy. An international team of researchers, led by the University of Geneva (Unige), has challenged this theory. It has indeed shown that the mixture of elements was on the contrary not homogeneous within the star cluster where our sun is located. Such a conclusion calls into question the scientific diagrams which explained how the planets are formed, in particular.

“This discovery plays an essential role in the design of theoretical models on the formation and evolution of galaxies”, noted Jens-Kristian Krogager, researcher in the department of astronomy of the Geneva alma mater. The results of the Unige team, published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature, will have an impact on the understanding of the evolution of galaxies in general, and the Milky Way in particular, assured the University. Metals play an essential role in the formation of stars, molecules or even planets. From now on, “we know that new stars and planets could be formed from gases having quantities of metals of very different compositions”.


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