Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How to Steal a Million Stars?

08.02.2006


The centre of the globular cluster Messier 12 as observed with the FORS-1 multi-mode instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (Cerro Paranal, Chile). The picture covers a region of about 3.5 arcmin on a side, corresponding to about 23 light years at the distance of Messier 12.


VLT Study Reveals Troubled Past of Globular Cluster Messier 12

Based on observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope, a team of Italian astronomers reports [1] that the stellar cluster Messier 12 must have lost to our Milky Way galaxy close to one million low-mass stars.

“In the solar neighbourhood and in most stellar clusters, the least massive stars are the most common, and by far”, said Guido De Marchi (ESA), lead author of the study. “Our observations with ESO’s VLT show this is not the case for Messier 12”.



The team, which also includes Luigi Pulone and Francesco Paresce (INAF, Italy), measured the brightness and colours of more than 16,000 stars within the globular cluster Messier 12 [2] with the FORS1 multi-mode instrument attached to one of the Unit Telescopes of ESO’s VLT at Cerro Paranal (Chile). The astronomers could study stars that are 40 million times fainter than what the unaided eye can see (magnitude 25).

Located at a distance of 23,000 light years in the constellation Ophiuchus (The Serpent-holder), Messier 12 got its name by being the 12th entry in the catalogue of nebulous objects compiled in 1774 by French astronomer and comet chaser Charles Messier. It is also known to astronomers as NGC 6218 and contains about 200 000 stars, most of them having a mass between 20 and 80 percent of the mass of the Sun.

“It is however clear that Messier 12 is surprisingly devoid of low-mass stars”, said De Marchi. “For each solar-like star, we would expect roughly four times as many stars with half that mass. Our VLT observations only show an equal number of stars of different masses.”

Globular clusters move in extended elliptical orbits that periodically take them through the densely populated regions of our Galaxy, the plane, then high above and below, in the ‘halo’. When venturing too close to the innermost and denser regions of the Milky Way, the ‘bulge’, a globular cluster can be perturbed, the smallest stars being ripped away.

“We estimate that Messier 12 lost four times as many stars as it still has”, said Francesco Paresce. “That is, roughly one million stars must have been ejected into the halo of our Milky Way”.

The total remaining lifetime of Messier 12 is predicted to be about 4.5 billion years, i.e. about a third of its present age. This is very short compared to the typical expected globular cluster’s lifetime, which is about 30 billion years.

The same team of astronomers had found in 1999, another example of a globular cluster that lost a large fraction of its original content (see ESO PR 04/99).

The scientists hope to discover and study many more clusters like these, since catching clusters while being disrupted should clarify the dynamics of the process that shaped the halo of our home galaxy, the Milky Way.

Notes

[1] The article (“Why is the mass function of NGC 6218 flat?” by Guido de Marchi, Luigi Pulone, and Francesco Paresce) is to be published in Astronomy and Astrophysics.

[2] Messier 12 is one of about 200 globular clusters known in our Galaxy. These are large groupings of 10,000 to more than a million stars that were formed together in the youth of the Milky Way, about 12 to 13 billion years ago. Globular clusters are a key tool for astronomers, because all the stars in a globular cluster share a common history. They were all born together, at the same time and place, and only differ from one another in their mass. By accurately measuring the brightness of the stars, astronomers can determine their relative sizes and stage of evolution precisely. Globular clusters are thus very helpful for testing theories of how stars evolve.

Henri Boffin | alfa
Further information:
http://www.eso.org/outreach/press-rel/pr-2006/phot-04-06.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Researchers discover link between magnetic field strength and temperature
21.08.2018 | American Institute of Physics

nachricht Smallest transistor worldwide switches current with a single atom in solid electrolyte
17.08.2018 | Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT)

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: It’s All in the Mix: Jülich Researchers are Developing Fast-Charging Solid-State Batteries

There are currently great hopes for solid-state batteries. They contain no liquid parts that could leak or catch fire. For this reason, they do not require cooling and are considered to be much safer, more reliable, and longer lasting than traditional lithium-ion batteries. Jülich scientists have now introduced a new concept that allows currents up to ten times greater during charging and discharging than previously described in the literature. The improvement was achieved by a “clever” choice of materials with a focus on consistently good compatibility. All components were made from phosphate compounds, which are well matched both chemically and mechanically.

The low current is considered one of the biggest hurdles in the development of solid-state batteries. It is the reason why the batteries take a relatively long...

Im Focus: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Air pollution leads to cardiovascular diseases

21.08.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Researchers target protein that protects bacteria's DNA 'recipes'

21.08.2018 | Life Sciences

A paper battery powered by bacteria

21.08.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>