Data from the Gaia Sky Mapping Satellite (ESA) has provided evidence that the closest star cluster to the Sun is being destroyed by the gravitational pull of a massive but invisible structure in our galaxy.
Scientists speculate that the invisible force that is destroying the Hyades – an open cluster of stars in the constellation of Taurus visible to the naked eye – could turn out to be a population of “dark matter subhalos.” These invisible clouds of particles are thought to be relics of the formation of the Milky Way. Today they are scattered throughout the galaxy, making up an invisible substructure that exerts a noticeable gravitational effect on all objects that drift too close to it.
European Space Agency researcher Teresa Jerabkova and her colleagues at the European Southern Observatory made the discovery by studying how a nearby star cluster merges with the general background of stars in our galaxy. The work is based on the early third edition of Gaia data (EDR3) and data from the second edition.
The team chose Hyades to study because it is the closest star cluster to the Sun. It lies just over 153 light-years from Earth. It is easily visible to observers in both the northern and southern hemispheres as a V-shaped bright stars.