A Biologist and an Astronomer go to dinner. That’s not the start of a joke, but it is actually how that astronomer got the inspiration for a new way of thinking about stars. That astronomer was the University of Cambridge’s Dr.Paula Jofre and she realized that she could chart stars in the Milky Way the same way we chart the family tree of animal species.
Dr.Paula Jofre and her team picked 22 stars (including our sun) and observed their chemical makeup, their age and their movement to plot them on a stellar ” tree of life.” They found that the stars they looked at could be plotted on three branches of the tree, with a few miscellaneous ones that didn’t fit with the others.
They can tell which stars are related based on their chemical makeup, almost like their Stellar DNA. If they were born in the same gas cloud then their makeup would be similar. This study found 8 of stars they looked at were the Sun’s siblings.
The researchers also suggested some of the stars may have originated from another galaxy that was absorbed by the Milky Way. Of course, they only looked at 22 of 100 billion stars. So maybe those 6 that didn’t feet with the others have some long lost brother and sister out there. The more they look, the more complete our galaxy’s tree of life will be.
Jofre’s goal is to get astronomers to think about the history of stars in a new way, so if you are an astronomer don’t be afraid to take a scientist from a different field out to dinner. It’s not so much a tree of life as maybe a spiral, which is appropriate considering we do live in a spiral galaxy.
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