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Wandering stars of the universe

19 October 2012

Press Office

UCLan academic explores how stars wander throughout their lifetime, providing fresh insight on galaxy formation

A University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) academic and his international colleague have chaired a global workshop which uncovered new insights on the process of radial migration – the mixing of stars within galaxies.

Dr Victor Debattista, from UCLan’s Jeremiah Horrocks Institute, and Dr Rok Roskar, from the University of Zurich, hosted Stars without Borders: Radial Migration in Spiral Galaxies, where the new insights were unearthed.

The first ever workshop in the emerging field of stellar migration in disk galaxies was attended by more than 40 scientists from across Europe, Australia and North America. The workshop discussed how stars either gain or lose energy from spiral arms which then alters their orbital radius, as well as, how much migration takes place, where it is easiest to detect and the mechanisms responsible for it.

“Our findings dramatically alter the perceived connection between the present-day distribution of stars and the disk formation process”

The findings at the workshop demonstrate that stars wander throughout their lifetime, disproving the widespread assumption that stars born in disks remain stationary and do not venture far from their original birthplace.

Dr. Debattista said: “Radial migration has a profound impact on our understanding and knowledge of the formation history of the Milky Way and has been the subject of many academic studies.

A simulation of a galaxy


“Our findings dramatically alter the perceived connection between the present-day distribution of stars and the disk formation process.”

He continues: “The results of our report has a profound impact not just in modern cosmology but a range of other established fields -  from external disks to our own Solar System. It is a clear testament to how radial migration will continue to be an important subject of study for years to come.”

A longer discussion on the themes explored in the Stars without Borders: Radial Migration in Spiral Galaxies workshop, is published in Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in a Perspectives Article in the 19 October issue.