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Learning objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain how star clusters help us understand the stages of stellar evolution
  • List the different types of star cluster s and describe how they differ in number of stars, structure, and age
  • Explain why the chemical composition of globular clusters is different from that of open clusters

The preceding description of stellar evolution is based on calculations. However, no star completes its main-sequence lifetime or its evolution to a red giant quickly enough for us to observe these structural changes as they happen. Fortunately, nature has provided us with an indirect way to test our calculations.

Instead of observing the evolution of a single star, we can look at a group or cluster of stars. We look for a group of stars that is very close together in space, held together by gravity, often moving around a common center. Then it is reasonable to assume that the individual stars in the group all formed at nearly the same time, from the same cloud, and with the same composition. We expect that these stars will differ only in mass. And their masses determine how quickly they go through each stage of their lives.

Since stars with higher masses evolve more quickly, we can find clusters in which massive stars have already completed their main-sequence phase of evolution and become red giants, while stars of lower mass in the same cluster are still on the main sequence, or even—if the cluster is very young—undergoing pre-main-sequence gravitational contraction. We can see many stages of stellar evolution among the members of a single cluster, and we can see whether our models can explain why the H–R diagrams of clusters of different ages look the way they do.

The three basic types of clusters astronomers have discovered are globular cluster    s, open cluster    s, and stellar association s. Their properties are summarized in [link] . As we will see in the next section of this chapter, globular clusters contain only very old stars, whereas open clusters and associations contain young stars.

Characteristics of Star Clusters
Characteristic Globular Clusters Open Clusters Associations
Number in the Galaxy 150 Thousands Thousands
Location in the Galaxy Halo and central bulge Disk (and spiral arms) Spiral arms
Diameter (in light-years) 50–450 <30 100–500
Mass M Sun 10 4 –10 6 10 2 –10 3 10 2 –10 3
Number of stars 10 4 –10 6 50–1000 10 2 –10 4
Color of brightest stars Red Red or blue Blue
Luminosity of cluster ( L Sun ) 10 4 –10 6 10 2 –10 6 10 4 –10 7
Typical ages Billions of years A few hundred million years to, in the case of unusually large clusters, more than a billion years Up to about 10 7 years

Globular clusters

Globular clusters were given this name because they are nearly symmetrical round systems of, typically, hundreds of thousands of stars. The most massive globular cluster in our own Galaxy is Omega Centauri , which is about 16,000 light-years away and contains several million stars ( [link] ). Note that the brightest stars in this cluster, which are red giants that have already completed the main-sequence phase of their evolution, are red-orange in color. These stars have typical surface temperatures around 4000 K. As we will see, globular clusters are among the oldest parts of our Milky Way Galaxy.

Questions & Answers

hi, I am yamini, I am in class 8 but very much interested in astronomy and go to NASA, what are the subjects in which I can master and lead to NASA.
yamini Reply
Hello Yamini, Im Ken and I'm avery intrested in joining the NASA too. Is nice to meet you.
Ken
very*
Ken
nice to meet u ken
yamini
What I know about the subjects is that you have to be a master on science and math, also if you know about aviation is better too
Ken
I read that the Russian language is very important, is not a requirement but it's like an extra point!
Ken
yeah like physics, chemistry and maths, they are my most favorite.
yamini
than you can go free of cost
Arush
Yes, That's right!
Ken
how
yamini
Oh! Free of cost?
Ken
hello yamini nice to meet you
Burak
what is time
Abdul Reply
Time is relative
mrunal
pls elaborate
sakshi
the clear defination.I know that.
Abdul
In planet mars there the life exits or not and is there water there
Eshwarsa Reply
see till now nothing can be found as u know that the curiosity rover has struck in mars
Maya
It has been proven that there are water molecules on Mars but not enough that most lifeforms could thrive upon.
Ariana
There are huge amounts of water in the ice caps and under the surface. The surface and chemistry indicate that Mars had cosiderable amounts of water on its surface in the past.
Julius
what is your opinion about the theory of Vedas about modern physics..
Manish Reply
i think in some ways vedas are also correct but not everytime
Maya
I agree
sakshi
hmm even I agree
Samuel
Is there any patened theory about time relativitg in growth and development?
donot Reply
some astronomer's says that there is no alien exist but why search for extra terrestrial intelligence center is established
Eshwarsa Reply
No One Knows That For Absolute Fact, The Universe Is Too Huge To Have Any Type Of Idea About What Exist In The Far Reaches Of Our Universe.....
Adam
Check Out The Drake Equation.....
Adam
their should be aliens as like ours there would be another planet
Maya
which could have existed life on it
Maya
adam i want to ask a question
Maya
can kepler 1st law be applied on all the planets of the universe
Maya
hello, anyone home?
Denise
sjskskfhjkkktewqqw and try?
Lanika Reply
what is this ?
Samuel
hi I am Samuel from India mumbai
Samuel
nice to meet you
Samuel
thats my question, what is this?
penzias and wilson's a discovery of the cosmic microwave background is a nice example of scientific serendipity-something that is found by chance but turns out to have a positive outcome
Jacqueline Reply
how should I make my carrier in astronomy
Ayush Reply
I think that Newton's third law is not appropriate if any also thinks like this please reply me
Ayush
Can you explain your reasoning
Huh
why u think so
joseph
yes Ayush u are right
Yoganshu
I think when we apply force to a object it start moving but , a/c to Newton's third law every action has equal and opposite reaction,so object should also exert equal force on us and it should not move due to balanced force
Ayush
if I am not right then reply me
Ayush
no
Zack
because of friction that opposes that force and help us to move ahead
Manish
but this is not satisfied as third law say another thing
Ayush
you are telling why object moves
Ayush
you have to think a/c to third law
Ayush
its because of its mass
Maya
because it is applying equal and opposite force but also our mass is also less in comparison to the object
Maya
which is why we cant move the object but it can make move us
Maya
manish is too correct in his place because we need to apply force which would overcome the frictional force
Maya
My dear friends, can u plz tell me that among u guys who are in the field of cosmology
Madhav Reply
😢I am not there in cosmology
Samuel
Just A Science Fan.....
Adam
Adam even I am 😥😅😅😂😂
Samuel
I am also not in cosmology but I am just a fan or we can say science and part of NASA is my dream
Yoganshu
yoganshu Arya same here
Samuel
you are from which country
Yoganshu
hi yoganshu
Samuel
India
Samuel
which state
Samuel
I am also from India
Yoganshu
from delhi
Yoganshu
and u...?
Yoganshu
I am from Maharashtra
Samuel
from which state?
Yoganshu
You are a ASTRONOMER ...
Yoganshu
or a scientist..
Yoganshu
or just a member
Yoganshu
What is time...? not about Newton= time is constant..... that all scientists openions n point of view I m knowing. . what can be the Perfect Definition of Time
Madhav Reply
time is what clock reads
Ayush
Who is the best astronomer of India at present time
Gian Reply
Jayant Narlikar, Proponent Of Steady State Cosmology.....
Adam
What is the real colour of sun rays
Gian Reply
white.. so white it becomes violet.. so violet it become ultraviolet
Tom
white and red and yellow
Bianca
Vibgyor
Samuel
the real colour of sunlight is White
Madhav
the Sun's has a variety of waves all throughout the elextromagnetic spectrum.
Jacie
we only see it as a few bc of how some of them get redshifted (? can that term be applied for something so local?) by some particles in our upper atmosphere
Jacie
Vibgyor will be when, the white light will pass through the clouds ( prism ) then Refraction phenomenon leads us to 7 colours splitting from a single colour "White " light
Madhav
so the sun rays r of White colour
Madhav
Taurus in astronomy and horoscope?
Yasser Reply
how to put E=MC2
Gospel Reply
What Do You Mean By How To Put?
Adam
What Do You Mean By How To Put?
Adam
What Do You Mean By "How To Put E=MC2?
Adam
yep
Gospel
Hi guys
Samuel
i mean how NASA came to know the mass and diameters of Stars.how?
Gospel
how did they do using E=MC2
Gospel
thats my questioning
Gospel
that's easy formula's derivation
Madhav
Practice Key Terms 3

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Source:  OpenStax, Astronomy. OpenStax CNX. Apr 12, 2017 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11992/1.13
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