Astronomers found that galaxies like our Milky Way underwent a stellar "baby boom," churning out stars at a prodigious rate, about 30 times faster than today.
    
Our Sun, however, is a late "boomer," researchers said. By that time the star formation rate in our galaxy had plunged to a trickle. However, the Sun's late appearance may actually have fostered the growth of our solar system's planets, researchers said.

Astronomers don't have baby pictures of our Milky Way's formative years to trace the history of stellar growth so they studied galaxies similar in mass to our Milky Way, found in deep surveys of the universe.
    
From those surveys, stretching back in time more than 10 billion years, researchers assembled an album of images containing nearly 2,000 snapshots of Milky Way-like galaxies.

The multi-wavelength study spans ultraviolet to far-infrared light, combining observations from NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, the European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory, and ground-based telescopes, including the Magellan Baade Telescope at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.
    
"This study allows us to see what the Milky Way may have looked like in the past," said Casey Papovich of Texas A&M University in College Station, lead author on the paper.
    
The study shows a strong correlation between the galaxies' star formation and growth in stellar mass. So, when the galaxies slow down making stars, their growth decreases as well.
    
The research appears in The Astrophysical Journal.

 

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