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November 5, 2015 01:00 PM (EST)

News Release Number: STScI-2015-38

Hubble Uncovers Fading Cinders of Some of Our Galaxy's Earliest Homesteaders

November 5, 2015: About 13 billion years ago, long before our sun formed, the construction of our Milky Way galaxy was just beginning. Young, mostly sun-like stars in the core, or central bulge, provided the building blocks for the galaxy's foundation. Many of these building-block stars have long since burned out, and are now just dying embers. But contained within these dead stars, called white dwarfs, is the early history of our galaxy, providing clues on how it came to be.

Finding these stellar relics, however, is a daunting task. Astronomers have had a difficult time picking out these dim objects from among the crowd of bright stars that fill the space between us and the core. Using Hubble Space Telescope images, astronomers have now conducted a "cosmic archaeological dig" of our Milky Way's heart, uncovering the blueprints of our galaxy's early construction phase. Hubble researchers have uncovered for the first time a population of ancient white dwarfs. The Hubble analysis represents the deepest, most detailed study of our galaxy's central bulge of stars.

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Credit for Hubble Images: NASA, ESA, A. Calamida and K. Sahu (STScI), and the SWEEPS Science Team

Credit for Ground-based Image: A. Fujii