Astronomers have spotted an “ancient star burst” in the center of the Milky Way so drastic and intense that it resulted in more than 100,000 supernova explosions.

Utilizing the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), the astronomers were able to discover that approximately 80 percent of stars in the Milky Way’s central region formed between 13.5 and 8 billion years ago.

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After a period of roughly 6 billion years, when few stars were created, there was “an intense burst of star formation” approximately 1 billion years ago. During this period, over roughly a period of 100 million years, there were “stars with a combined mass possibly as high as a few tens of million suns,” the ESO wrote on its website.

ESO/Nogueras-Lara et al)   “>

Taken with the HAWK-I instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope in the Chilean Atacama Desert, this stunning image shows the Milky Way’s central region with an angular resolution of 0.2 arcseconds. This means the level of detail picked up by HAWK-I is roughly equivalent to seeing a football (soccer ball) in Zurich from Munich, where ESO’s headquarters are located. (Credit:<br> ESO/Nogueras-Lara et al)   

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By comparison, the Milky Way galaxy is widely accepted to be 13.5 billion years old.

“Our unprecedented survey of a large part of the Galactic center has given us detailed insights into the formation process of stars in this region of the Milky Way,” said Rainer Schödel from the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia in Granada, Spain, in a statement on the ESO’s website.

“Contrary to what had been accepted up to now, we found that the formation of stars has not been continuous,” Francisco Nogueras-Lara, the lead author of the study, added in the statement.

The images were captured with the HAWK-1 instrument on the VLT, a tool that allows astronomers to “see” through dense interstellar clouds of dust and gas.

“The conditions in the studied region during this burst of activity must have resembled those in ‘starburst’ galaxies, which form stars at rates of more than 100 solar masses per year,” Nogueras-Lara added.

This beautiful image of the Milky Way’s central region, taken with the HAWK-I instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, shows interesting features of this part of our galaxy. This image highlights the Nuclear Star Cluster (NSC) right in the center and the Arches Cluster, the densest cluster of stars in the Milky Way. Other features include the Quintuplet cluster, which contains five prominent stars, and a region of ionized hydrogen gas (HII). (Credit: ESO/Nogueras-Lara et al.)

This beautiful image of the Milky Way’s central region, taken with the HAWK-I instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, shows interesting features of this part of our galaxy. This image highlights the Nuclear Star Cluster (NSC) right in the center and the Arches Cluster, the densest cluster of stars in the Milky Way. Other features include the Quintuplet cluster, which contains five prominent stars, and a region of ionized hydrogen gas (HII). (Credit: ESO/Nogueras-Lara et al.)

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“This burst of activity, which must have resulted in the explosion of more than a hundred thousand supernovae, was probably one of the most energetic events in the whole history of the Milky Way,” Nogueras-Lara continued.

The two research studies that were produced as a result of the discoveries can be read here and here.

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