Over the course of its history, the Milky Way has ingested multiple smaller satellite galaxies 1. Although these accreted stellar populations can be forensically identified as kinematically distinct structures within the Galaxy, it is difficult in general to date precisely the age at which any one merger occurred. Recent results have revealed a population of stars that were accreted via the collision of a dwarf galaxy, called Gaia–Enceladus 1, leading to substantial pollution of the chemical and dynamical properties of the Milky Way. Here we identify the very bright, naked-eye star ν Indi as an indicator of the age of the early in situ population of the Galaxy. We combine asteroseismic, spectroscopic, astrometric and kinematic observations to show that this metal-poor, alpha-element-rich star was an indigenous member of the halo, and we measure its age to be 11.0 ± 0.7 (stat) ± 0.8 (sys) billion years. The star bears hallmarks consistent with having been kinematically heated by the Gaia–Enceladus collision. Its age implies that the earliest the merger could have begun was 11.6 and 13.2 billion years ago, at 68% and 95% confidence, respectively. Computations based on hierarchical cosmological models slightly reduce the above limits.
Bibliographical noteAccepted for publication as a Letter in Nature Astronomy (26 pages, 7 figures, including main article and methods section)
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Astronomy and Astrophysics