Astronomers have accidentally discovered the first known intergalactic trail of stars. The gigantic “stellar stream,” which is around 10 times longer than the Milky Way, suggests that more of these structures could be lurking in deep space, a new study reveals.
Stellar streams are elongated threads of gravitationally entwined stars that have likely been ripped away from their parent galaxies or nebulas by the gravitational pull of other nearby galaxies. Scientists have mapped dozens of these streams within galaxies, including the Milky Way. But until now, none had been discovered in intergalactic space, meaning the space between galaxies.
In the study, which was published Nov. 30 in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the researchers identified and mapped the first-ever intergalactic stellar stream, which stretches through the Coma Cluster, also known as Abell 1656, a group of more than 1,000 small galaxies located around 321 million light-years from Earth. The researchers named the first-of-its-kind structure the Giant Coma Stream — so named because it is also the largest stellar stream ever found.
h/t Digital mix guy Spock