Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Newfound Star Cluster May Be Final Milky Way 'Fossil'

Date:
October 13, 2004
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
Just when astronomers thought they might have dug up the last of our galaxy's "fossils," they've discovered a new one in the galactic equivalent of our own backyard.

This false-color image taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows a globular cluster previously hidden in the dusty plane of our Milky Way galaxy. The red streak behind the core of the cluster is a dust cloud, which may indicate the cluster's interaction with the Milky Way. Alternatively, this cloud may lie coincidentally along Spitzer's line of sight.
Credit: Image courtesy of NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Just when astronomers thought they might have dug up the last of our galaxy's "fossils," they've discovered a new one in the galactic equivalent of our own backyard.

Called globular clusters, these ancient bundles of stars date back to the birth of our Milky Way galaxy, 13 or so billion years ago. They are sprinkled around the center of the galaxy like seeds in a pumpkin. Astronomers use clusters as tools for studying the Milky Way's age and formation.

New infrared images from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the University of Wyoming Infrared Observatory reveal a never-before-seen globular cluster within the dusty confines of the Milky Way. The findings will be reported in an upcoming issue of the Astronomical Journal.

"It's like finding a long-lost cousin," said Dr. Chip Kobulnicky, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Wyoming, Laramie, and lead author of the report. "We thought all the galaxy's globular clusters had already been found."

"I couldn't believe what I was seeing," said Andrew Monson, a graduate student at the University of Wyoming, who first spotted the cluster. "I certainly wasn't expecting to find such a cluster."

The newfound cluster is one of about 150 known to orbit the center of the Milky Way. These tightly packed knots of stars are among the oldest objects in our galaxy, having formed about 10 to 13 billion years ago. They contain several hundred thousand stars, most of which are older and less massive than our Sun.

Monson first noticed the cluster while scanning data from the Spitzer Space Telescope's Galactic Legacy Infrared Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire - a survey to find objects hidden within the dusty mid-plane of our galaxy. He then searched archival data for a match and found only one undocumented image of the cluster from a previous NASA-funded infrared survey of the sky, called the Two Micron All-Sky Survey. "The cluster was there in the data but nobody had found it," said Monson.

"This discovery demonstrates why Spitzer is so powerful - it can see objects that are completely hidden in visible light," said Dr. Michael Werner of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., project scientist for Spitzer. "This is particularly relevant to the study of the plane of our galaxy, where dust blocks most visible light."

Follow-up observations with the University of Wyoming Infrared Observatory helped set the distance of the new cluster at about 9,000 light-years from Earth - closer than most clusters -- and set the mass at the equivalent of 300,000 Suns. The cluster's apparent size, as viewed from Earth, is comparable to a grain of rice held at arm's length. It is located in the constellation Aquila.

The research team consists of astronomers from the University of Wisconsin, Madison; Boston University, Boston, Mass.; the University of Maryland, College Park, Md.; the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.; and the Spitzer Science Center, Pasadena, Calif. The Galactic Legacy Infrared Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire is managed by the University of Wisconsin and led by Dr. Ed Churchwell.

JPL manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. JPL is a division of Caltech. Spitzer's infrared array camera, which captured the new cluster, was built by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The camera's development was led by Dr. Giovanni Fazio of Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass.

Additional information about the Spitzer Space Telescope is available at http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu. Additional information about the University of Wyoming Infrared Observatory is available at http://physics.uwyo.edu/~mpierce/WIRO/.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Newfound Star Cluster May Be Final Milky Way 'Fossil'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 October 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/10/041013090001.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2004, October 13). Newfound Star Cluster May Be Final Milky Way 'Fossil'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/10/041013090001.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Newfound Star Cluster May Be Final Milky Way 'Fossil'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/10/041013090001.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) A comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system passed extremely close to Mars this weekend, giving astronomers a rare opportunity to study it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) Argentina launches a home-built satellite, a first for Latin America. It will ride a French-made Ariane 5 rocket into orbit, and will provide cell phone, digital TV, Internet and data services to the lower half of South America. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

NASA (Oct. 17, 2014) Power spacewalk, MAVEN’s “First Light”, Hubble finds extremely distant galaxy and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Saturn's 'Death Star' Moon Might Have A Hidden Ocean

Saturn's 'Death Star' Moon Might Have A Hidden Ocean

Newsy (Oct. 17, 2014) The smallest of Saturn's main moons, Mimas, wobbles as it orbits. Research reveals it might be due to a global ocean underneath its icy surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins