An acclaimed Preston university professor is among an international team of astronomers involved in a ground-breaking project.
They have produced new maps of the material between the stars in the Milky Way that should move scientists closer to cracking a century-old stardust puzzle.
Professor Brad Gibson, from Jeremiah Horrocks Institute at the University of Central Lancashire and his fellow researchers say their work reveals a new way of uncovering the location - and eventually the composition - of the interstellar medium, which refers to the material found in the vast expanse between star systems within a galaxy.
This material, including dust and gas composed of atoms and molecules are left behind when a star dies. They also become the building blocks of new stars and planets.
But how and why stars form where they do is a mystery.
Prof Gibson said: “This work provides surprising clues about the interstellar medium out of which stars form.”
The new study is the result of 10 years of data collection by 23 scientists from 10 countries, as part of the Radial Velocity Experiment (RAVE).