Astronomers identified “Shakti” and “Shiva,” two earliest building blocks of the Milky Way

Shiva stars are shown in green and Shakti stars in pink.© S. Payne-Wardenaar / K. Malhan / MPIA

Two Astronomers, Khyati Malhan and Hans-Walter Rix of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, through their analysis, have successfully pinpointed what are believed to be two integral components or building blocks in the formation of the Milky Way: they have named it “Shakti” and “Shiva.” These celestial remnants are thought to encapsulate the essence of two ancient galaxies that harmoniously fused around 12 to 13 billion years ago, merging with an early blueprint of our galactic home.

This convergence symbolizes a pivotal moment in the cosmic narrative, embarking on a journey that fundamentally shaped the nascent essence of the Milky Way, enriching its cosmic tapestry with an intricate weave of stellar history and grand design.

The discovery represents a milestone in astronomy, akin to uncovering the first signs of an ancient civilization that eventually evolved into a thriving, large present-day city. This breakthrough was made possible by cross-referencing data collected on roughly 6 million stars by the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission with information gathered through the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS).

The extensive findings have now been officially documented in the Astrophysical Journal, solidifying their significance in the scientific community.

According to Malhan, for a certain range of metal-poor stars, there was an intriguing phenomenon where the stars were tightly clustered around two specific combinations of energy and angular momentum. Interestingly, amidst this stellar gathering, there was also a notable presence of what could be described as the “poor old heart” in the stellar plots. However, what truly caught the attention of researchers were the distinctive characteristics of two distinct groups of stars within the cluster — Shakti and Shiva. Named after the powerful deities of Hinduism, these groups displayed significantly larger angular momentum compared to their stellar counterparts, hinting at a potential cosmic origin tied to separate galaxies merging with the Milky Way.

The intriguing interplay of energy and angular momentum values exhibited by Shakti and Shiva, coupled with their remarkably low metallicity like that of the “poor old heart,” positions them as compelling candidates for being among the ancestors of our Milky Way galaxy. As Rix elaborates, the emergence of Shakti and Shiva in the galactic tapestry might signify the initial steps towards enriching and expanding the existing structure of the Milky Way, propelling it towards its eventual evolution into a massive galaxy.

Through the lens of astrophysical exploration, these unique stellar entities provide valuable insights into the dynamic processes that have shaped and sculpted the celestial landscape throughout cosmic history.

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