Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Astronomers find the most distant star clusters hidden behind a nearby cluster

12.01.2007
Astronomers have discovered the most distant population of star clusters ever seen, hidden behind one of the nearest such clusters to Earth. At a distance of more than a billion light-years, the newly discovered star clusters provide a unique probe of what similar systems in our own galaxy once looked like.

"Given their distance, the light that we see today from these clusters was emitted more than one billion years ago and may hold important clues for understanding the evolution of globular clusters," said Jason Kalirai, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who will present the findings in a talk at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle.

Kalirai and Harvey Richer of the University of British Columbia led the study, which began as an investigation of a globular star cluster in the Milky Way galaxy known as NGC 6397. The researchers acquired one of the deepest optical images ever taken with the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys, focusing on a small field within NGC 6397. This cluster, home to hundreds of thousands of stars, is 8,500 light-years away, making it one of the closest globular clusters to Earth.

The new data from stars within NGC 6397 have yielded important insights into the age, origin, and evolution of this cluster. Hidden in the background, however, were findings that may hold even greater promise for understanding the evolution of such clusters, Kalirai said. Within the population of stars and galaxies behind NGC 6397, the Hubble image revealed a large elliptical galaxy that contains several hundred globular clusters.

Although each of these clusters probably contains hundreds of thousands of stars, they are so far away from the Earth that each cluster appears as a single faint point of light in the Hubble image. In fact, a single giant star in NGC 6397 appears 10 million times brighter than one of the distant globular clusters. Nevertheless, the faint light from these clusters could yield valuable information, Kalirai said.

Kalirai and Richer followed up the Hubble imaging observations with spectroscopic observations using the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph on the Gemini South Telescope on Cerro Pachon in Chile. They were able to determine the distance of the elliptical galaxy hosting the globular clusters by measuring its redshift (a measure of how the expansion of the universe shifts the wavelengths of light from a distant object). This showed that the globular clusters are the most distant ever studied.

"The properties that we infer for these clusters may therefore represent an important clue in understanding what our own Milky Way globulars, such as NGC 6397, looked like in the past," Kalirai said.

Previous studies by other researchers of globular clusters in nearby galaxies, including the Milky Way, have shown that these systems play a very important role in understanding the formation and evolution of galaxies. With a sample of almost 200 clusters in this one distant galaxy, Kalirai's team will test whether the properties of these globulars are consistent with the idea that elliptical galaxies formed the bulk of their stars at early times. For the first time, the observations may also allow astronomers to test for evolution in the properties of globular clusters themselves, Kalirai said.

Tim Stephens | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucsc.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation
12.12.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik

nachricht Telescopes team up to study giant galaxy
12.12.2017 | International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research

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: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

12.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Multi-year submarine-canyon study challenges textbook theories about turbidity currents

12.12.2017 | Earth Sciences

Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

12.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>