Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Globular Clusters Tell Tale of Star Formation in Nearby Galaxy Metropolis

06.08.2008
A new Hubble Space Telescope study of globular clusters outside our Milky Way Galaxy has found evidence that globular clusters are more likely to form in dense areas, where star birth occurs at a rapid rate, instead of uniformly from galaxy to galaxy.

Globular star clusters, dense bunches of hundreds of thousands of stars, have some of the oldest surviving stars in the universe. A new study of globular clusters outside our Milky Way Galaxy has found evidence that these hardy pioneers are more likely to form in dense areas, where star birth occurs at a rapid rate, instead of uniformly from galaxy to galaxy.

Astronomers used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to identify over 11,000 globular clusters in the Virgo cluster of galaxies. Most are older than 5 billion years. The sharp vision of Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys resolved the star clusters in 100 galaxies of various sizes, shapes, and brightnesses, even in faint, dwarf galaxies. Comprised of over 2,000 galaxies, the Virgo cluster is the nearest large galaxy cluster to Earth, located about 54 million light-years away.

Astronomers have long known that the giant elliptical galaxy at the cluster's center, M87, hosts a larger than predicted population of globular star clusters. The origin of so many globulars has been a long-standing mystery.

"Our study shows that the efficiency of star cluster formation depends on the environment," said Patrick Cote of the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in Victoria, British Columbia. "Dwarf galaxies closest to Virgo's crowded center contained more globular clusters than those farther away."

The team found a bounty of globular clusters in most dwarf galaxies within 3 million light-years of the cluster's center, where the giant elliptical galaxy M87 resides. The number of globulars in these dwarfs ranged from a few dozen to several dozen, but these numbers were surprisingly high for the low masses of the galaxies they inhabited. By contrast, dwarfs in the outskirts of the cluster had fewer globulars. Many of M87's star clusters may have been snatched from smaller galaxies that ventured too close to it.

"We found few or no globular clusters in galaxies within 130,000 light-years from M87, suggesting the giant galaxy stripped the smaller ones of their star clusters," explained Eric Peng of Peking University in Beijing, China, and lead author of the Hubble study. "These smaller galaxies are contributing to the buildup of M87."

Hubble's "eye" is so sharp that it was able to pick out the fuzzy globular clusters from stars in our galaxy and from faraway galaxies in the background. "It's hard to distinguish globular clusters from stars and galaxies using ground-based telescopes," Peng said.

"With Hubble we were able to identify and study about 90 percent of the globular clusters in all our observed fields. This was crucial for dwarf galaxies that have only a handful of star clusters."

Evidence of M87's galactic cannibalism comes from an analysis of the globular clusters' composition. "In M87 there are three times as many globulars deficient in heavy elements, such as iron, than globulars rich in those elements," Peng said. "This suggests that many of these 'metal-poor' star clusters may have been stolen from nearby dwarf galaxies, which also contain globulars deficient in heavy elements."

Studying globular star clusters is critical to understanding the early, intense star-forming episodes that mark galaxy formation. They are known to reside in all but the faintest of galaxies.

"Star formation near the core of Virgo is very intense and occurs in a small volume over a short amount of time," Peng noted. "It may be more rapid and more efficient than star formation in the outskirts. The high star-formation rate may be driven by the gravitational collapse of dark matter, an invisible form of matter, which is denser and collapses sooner near the cluster's center. M87 sits at the center of a large concentration of dark matter, and all of these globulars near the center probably formed early in the history of the Virgo cluster."

The fewer number of globular clusters in dwarf galaxies farther away from the center may be due to the masses of the star clusters that formed, Peng said. "Star formation farther away from the central region was not as robust, which may have produced only less massive star clusters that dissipated over time," he explained.

The results appeared July 1 in The Astrophysical Journal.

For images and more information about the Virgo Cluster globular clusters, visit: http://hubblesite.org/news/2008/30

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) and is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Md. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) conducts Hubble science operations. The institute is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., Washington, D.C.

Donna Weaver | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.stsci.edu
http://hubblesite.org/news/2008/30

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht One-way roads for spin currents
23.05.2018 | Singapore University of Technology and Design

nachricht Tunable diamond string may hold key to quantum memory
23.05.2018 | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Magnesium magnificent for plasmonic applications

23.05.2018 | Materials Sciences

Tunable diamond string may hold key to quantum memory

23.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Building a brain, cell by cell: Researchers make a mini neuron network (of two)

23.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>