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Scary: Invisible Force is destroying a cluster of stars near Earth.

Strange things are happening in our galaxy.


A new analysis of Gaia satellite data has revealed that the cluster of stars closest to our solar system is being divided into something we can’t see.


For scientists, the division is happening not only by normal processes, but also by the gravitational pull of something massive that we cannot see.


Researchers believe this hidden force may be an indictment that a cluster of dark matter is nearby, wreaking havoc on anything within its reach.


Separation by gravitational forces is an inevitable target for a cluster of stars. As the name suggests, a cluster of stars is a compact and dense concentration of stars, so gravitational interactions can get very turbulent.


Between these internal interactions and the external galactic tidal forces – the gravity exerted by the galaxy itself – star clusters can end up separated into rivers of stars: what is known as a tidal current.


These streams are difficult to see in the sky because it is often quite complicated to measure stellar distances and therefore group stars. But the Gaia satellite has been working to map the Milky Way galaxy in three dimensions with as much detail and as much accuracy as possible, and the most accurate position and velocity data on as many stars as possible.


Because stars pulled from a cluster of stars still share the same speed (more or less) as clustered stars, astronomers the Gaia data helped identify many previously unknown tidal flows, and clusters of stars with tidal tails – strands of stars that began to break free from the cluster in front of and behind it.


In 2019, astronomers revealed that they found evidence in the second release of Gaia data from tide tails flowing from Hyades; 153 light-years away, it is the closest star cluster to Earth.


This caught the attention of astronomer Tereza Jerabkova and her colleagues at the European Space Agency and the European Southern Observatory. When Gaia Data Release 2.5 (DR2.5) and DR3 became available, they focused, expanding search parameters to capture the stars that previous detections had lost.


These clusters of dark matter can still be found today in ‘dark halos’ extended around galaxies. The Milky Way is believed to be 1.9 million light-years in diameter. Within these halos, astronomers predict denser clusters, called dark matter subhalos, just wandering.


Future research may reveal a structure that could have caused the strange disappearance of stars on Hyades’ tail; if they do not, the researchers think that the interruption may be the work of a subhalo of dark matter.


The discovery also suggests that tidal streams and tails may be excellent locations to look for sources of mysterious gravitational interactions.


“With Gaia, the way we see the Milky Way has completely changed,” Jerabkova said.” And with these discoveries, we will be able to map the substructures of the Milky Way much better than ever before.”


The research was published in Astronomy & Astrophysics and this article contains information from Science Alert.

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