March 27, 2013
New Image Shows Glory Of Star Cluster NGC 2547
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Astronomers have unveiled a new image of recently formed bright blue stars in the cluster NGC 2547.
Astronomers using the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at the European Space Observatory's (ESO) La Silla Observatory in Chile took images of the stars while they were focusing in on the southern constellation of Vela (The Sail).
Despite the universe being roughly 13.8 billion years old, new stars and objects are still forming, as well as being destroyed. NGC 2547 is a great representation of the newness that is still left in an ancient universe.
Astronomers believe that NGC 2547's stars range from 20 to 35 million years old. Our own Sun is 4,600 million years old and has not yet reached middle age.
[ Watch the Video: Zooming into the Open Star Cluster NGC 2547 ]
"That means that if you imagine that the Sun as a 40 year-old person, the bright stars in the picture are three-month-old babies," researchers said in a recent ESO statement.
NGC 2547 contains many hot stars that glow bright blue, which is a sign to astronomers of their youth. However, the star cluster also features a few yellow or red stars, which are stars that are so old they have already evolved to become red giants. Open star clusters like NGC 2547 usually have short lives of several hundred million years because the stars begin to drift apart.
Astronomers use star clusters to study how stars evolve through their live. They also have found that members of a cluster were all born from the same material at about the same time, helping to give approximate ages for the stars.
NGC 2547 sits about 1,500 light-years away from Earth, and is bright enough to be seen using binoculars. It was first discovered in 1751 by the French astronomers Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille during an astronomical expedition to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.
Plenty of other objects can be seen in the recently released photo, including many fainter or more distant stars in the Milky Way.
Astronomers discovered a new star cluster of older stars sitting within the Orion Nebula. The discovery was considered important for two reasons: the first being that it is only a slightly older sibling of the Trapezium cluster at the heart of the Orion nebula; and the second being that the Orion Nebula Cluster is actually a complicated mix of these two separate clusters.
[ Watch the Video: A Close Look at the Young Stars in NGC 2547 ]
“We need refine what we thought were the most robust star and cluster formation observables,” said Herve Bouy from the European Space Astronomy Centre in Madrid. Bouy pointed out the need for a long follow-up to “untangle these two mixed populations, star by star, if we are to understand the region, and star formation in clusters, and even the early stages of planet formation.”
Star clusters are able to appear a lot younger than they actually are as well. Researchers wrote in Nature back in December last year about how some clusters age faster, or slower, than others.
“By studying the distribution of a type of blue star that exists in the clusters, we found that some clusters had indeed evolved much faster over their lifetimes, and we developed a way to measure the rate of aging," Francesco Ferraro, a professor at the University of Bologna and the leader of the team that made the discovery, said in a press release