Astronomers have discovered a new type of star at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. This is a different type of red giant, one that can “lay still” for decades and then spew out clouds of gas.
Researchers discovered the types of stars in a study of the starry sky published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. For this they used an infrared telescope. Using infrared radiation, researchers were able to see stars that are barely visible through other telescopes, through clouds of dust and gas suspended in front of the stars.
Scientists discovered, among other things, 21 stars similar to red giants. These are stars that are in the final stages of life and swell and take on a red color. The stars found have the remarkable property that they were less bright during some periods.
Closer examination shows that this is because stars are spewing out gas clouds. Because of their resemblance to the clouds exhaled by smokers, scientists have nicknamed the stars “ancient smokers.”
The stars are located in the innermost part of the Milky Way, where stars are often composed of heavier elements than elsewhere in our galaxy. According to scientists, this makes it easier for small molecules to escape from the layers of gas outside the red giants. But exactly how this happens remains a mystery to scientists.
Professor Philip Lucas, who leads the research team, says: “The material released from old stars plays an important role in the life cycle of elements and helps form new stars and planets.” The researchers believe that the discovery of “ancient smokers” could contribute to knowledge of how elements spread across the Milky Way.