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How Old Are Globular Clusters?

6 Jun 2018, 15:45 UTC
How Old Are Globular Clusters?
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Some 150 globular clusters are associated with the Milky Way, great collections of stars inhabiting the galactic halo. Their stars have long been assumed to be ancient, making the question of life there intriguing: If life caught hold in these tightly packed clusters early in the universe’s evolution, could ancient civilizations have formed that might persist even today? I know of only one planet that has yet been found in a globular cluster, but we’re obviously early in the game, and planets have been discovered in open clusters, which are much less densely packed.
Just how little we know about globular clusters, though, is made apparent by the work of Elizabeth Stanway (University of Warwick), whose new paper argues that such clusters could be billions of years younger than we have thought. Working with JJ Eldridge (University of Auckland), Stanway invokes a model called Binary Population and Spectral Synthesis (BPASS). In play here is the evolution of binary stars within globular clusters, a line of research that has been put to work in prior studies of young stellar populations in the Milky Way and elsewhere.

Image: The globular cluster Terzan 1. Clusters like these have been thought to ...

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