Featured Image: Untangling the Galaxy

Did you know that the stars around us are organized into a tangle of threads and strings? The unprecedented precision and sensitivity of the Gaia second data release has given us the ability to map the precise locations of and distances to the stars around us, allowing us to piece together these clusters and structures. In a new study led by Marina Kounkel (Western Washington University), a team of scientists has conducted clustering analysis to identify a total of 8,292 structures of stars within about 10,000 light-years of us. These threads have a typical length of ~650 light-years and width of ~30 light-years, and they likely trace the shape of the filamentary giant molecular clouds from which they formed. The image above shows the 2D projection of the locations of some of these clustered stars, but to really dive into the data, you need to see it in 3D. For that, you can check out the authors’ interactive figure, which allows you to manipulate their data and view the strings from your angle of choice. We’ll be discussing interactive figures further on this site soon! In the meantime, you can check out the authors’ work (and their figures) in the article below.


“Untangling the Galaxy. II. Structure within 3 kpc,” Marina Kounkel et al 2020 AJ 160 279. doi:10.3847/1538-3881/abc0e6