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Snail shell pattern in the velocity of stars - Gaia data

Snail shell pattern in the velocity of stars - Gaia data


Date: 19 September 2018
Satellite: Gaia
Copyright: T. Antoja et al. 2018

This graph shows the altitude of stars in our Galaxy above or below the plane of the Milky Way against their velocity in the same direction, based on data from the second release of ESA's Gaia mission.

The never-before-seen snail shell-like shape of the pattern was interpreted as a perturbation in the Milky Way's past, likely a galactic encounter. A similar pattern results from a computer simulation of a near collision that set millions of stars moving like ripples on a pond.

The close encounter revealed by the Gaia data likely took place sometime in the past 300–900 million years, and the culprit could be the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy, a small galaxy containing a few tens of millions of stars that is currently in the process of being cannibalised by the Milky Way.

Read more: Gaia hints at our Galaxy's turbulent life

Last Update: 1 September 2019
18-Oct-2019 08:50 UT

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