HALIFAX – A Halifax astronomer has discovered two stars on the other side of the galaxy that could tell us more about our universe.
The findings were recently published in Astrophysical Journal Letters but Daniel Majaess, an astronomy instructor at Mount Saint Vincent University and Saint Mary’s University, and Chilean astronomers Dr. Dekany and Dr. Minniti discovered them several months ago.
The twin stars, called Cepheids, exist directly on the other side of the Milky Way, and are the first known stars found there. Majaess said the discovery could help map the structure of the other side of the galaxy.
Majaess calls the findings a technological feat since the view of the Cepheids is blocked by dust from the Milky Way. The discovery was made possible thanks to a telescope in the Chilean mountains that used infrared light to penetrate the debris.
The astronomer said the stars are approximately 37,000 light years away from Earth but adds they are still important to our understanding of the universe.
“This type of star is very special in that it’s used to determine the distances to extragalactic targets. They’re used to determine the distance to different structures in our own galaxy and they’re used to determine the expansion rate of the universe, the age of the universe,” he said.
Majaess adds the stars also have the potential to make people ask bigger questions.
David Turner, a professor of astronomy and physics at Saint Mary’s University, said the finding of the two Cepheids is unique.
Fellow astronomy professor Marcin Sawicki said Majaess’s findings have an immediate impact on our general knowledge of the universe.
“We get a sense of scale. We get a sense of how small the Earth is, how small we are,” he said.
“I think we should just cherish the fact it gives us some deeper understanding about where we are in the universe, how our home, the galaxy, is constructed and our place in everything.”