Study Reveals Hundreds of Thousands of Young Stars in Sagittarius C Region

The Sagittarius C region, located a mere 300 light-years from Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the heart of our Milky Way Galaxy, is home to a rich population of young stars. Scientists have identified this area as the most active star-formation region in our galaxy. Despite this, only a small proportion of the anticipated young stars have been identified due to challenges such as dust and gas clouds obscuring the view and star crowding.

Astronomer Dr. Francisco Nogueras Lara from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) sought to uncover these hidden stars within the Galactic center by examining the stellar population in Sagittarius C. Using data from the HAWK-I infrared instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, Dr. Lara discovered an abundance of young, previously unidentified, stars in the Sagittarius C region.

Dr. Lara’s investigation revealed that Sagittarius C is home to hundreds of thousands of solar masses of young stars, a significantly higher concentration than other areas in the Galactic center. This discovery contributes to addressing the discrepancy between the expected and the detected number of young stars in the Galactic center, and provides valuable insight into their evolution in this extreme environment.

Further analysis showed that the young stars in Sagittarius C, estimated to be around 20 million years old, are likely the next evolutionary step of the slightly younger stars found in the Sagittarius B1 region, located on the opposite edge of the nuclear stellar disk.

Additionally, an intermediate-aged stellar population was discovered in Sagittarius C, comprising around 50% of its stellar mass and aged between 2 and 7 billion years. This population is absent in the innermost regions of the nuclear stellar disk, which is dominated by stars older than 7 billion years. This finding supports the existence of an age gradient and favors an inside-out formation of the nuclear stellar disk.

The discovery of these new stars in the Sagittarius C region not only advances our understanding of star formation and evolution in the Milky Way but also suggests that there are likely many more young stars yet to be discovered within our galaxy. This research provides a clearer picture of the complex processes at work in the heart of our galaxy and the lifecycle of stars within it.

These findings were published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. This study is a significant step forward in our understanding of the Milky Way’s stellar population and adds to the growing body of knowledge about star formation and evolution in our galaxy.

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