Humans could actually consider themselves ‘space travelers’ or ‘extragalactic immigrants’, a scientist has said – after a new study showed we come from outside our own Milky Way.
Scientists from Northwestern University astrophysicists found that up to half the matter in our galaxy – and within our own bodies – comes from distant galaxies.
The scientists used supercomputer simulations to show that matter is often transferred between galaxies.
Supernova explosions eject vast amounts of gas from galaxies, which causes atoms to be transported from one galaxy to another via powerful galactic winds.
As much as half of the atoms inside our bodies may have come from other galaxies – millions of light years away.
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‘Given how much of the matter out of which we formed may have come from other galaxies, we could consider ourselves space travelers or extragalactic immigrants,’ said Daniel Anglés-Alcázar, a postdoctoral fellow in Northwestern’s astrophysics centre, who led the study.
‘It is likely that much of the Milky Way’s matter was in other galaxies before it was kicked out by a powerful wind, traveled across intergalactic space and eventually found its new home in the Milky Way.’
Galaxies are far apart from each other, so even though galactic winds propagate at hundreds of miles per second, this process occurred over several billion years.