“NGC 1651 is the best example found to date of a truly single-age stellar population,” said Richard de Grijs, a faculty member at KIAA involved in the study. “We have since identified a handful of other middle-aged clusters that appear to show similar features.”
The research suggests that, for middle-aged clusters at least, today’s conventional wisdom may be wrong and it might be common for all stars in a single cluster to be of approximately the same age.
A decade ago, astronomers actually thought that the stars within any cluster should all be about the same age, but that idea fell out of favor when clear evidence of the presence of stars of different ages within a single cluster was discovered, at least for the oldest and most populous clusters in our Milky Way. Based on today’s Nature paper, a reverse shift looks necessary.
Measuring the mean magnitude or period of a Cepheid, however, can be a pretty demanding task in its own right. A Cepheid’s light curve looks different in different wavelengths (as shown in Figure 1, taken from Madore and Freedman 1991). The shorter-wavelength bands like the B and V-bands have light curves with larger amplitudes of variation and more asymmetry than the light curves in longer-wavelength near-infrared bands like J, H, and K. This makes it easier to detect and characterize the Cepheids in the B and V bands, but harder to accurately determine the mean magnitude of a Cepheid in those wavelengths, since we have to know accurately what phase of the light curve we are observing in order to get a good measurement of the mean magnitude. In practice, we often want to use measure the periods using light curves from shorter wavelengths and measure the mean magnitudes using light curves from longer wavelengths.
Classical Cepheids, like binary stars, are laboratories for stellar evolution and Cepheids in binary systems are especially powerful ones. About one-third of Galactic Cepheids are known to have companions and Cepheids in eclipsing binary systems have recently been discovered in the Large Magellanic Cloud. However, there are no known Galactic binary Cepheids with orbital periods less than one year. We compute population synthesis models of binary Cepheids to compare to the observed period and eccentricity distributions of Galactic Cepheids as well as to the number of observed eclipsing binary Cepheids in the LMC. We find that our population synthesis models are consistent with observed binary properties of Cepheids. Furthermore, we show that binary interaction on the red giant branch prevents some red giant stars from becoming classical Cepheids. Such interactions suggest that the binary fraction of Cepheids should be significantly less than that of their main-sequence progenitors, and that almost all binary Cepheids have orbital periods longer than one year. If the Galactic Cepheid spectroscopic binary fraction is about 35%, then the spectroscopic binary fraction of their intermediate mass main sequence progenitors is about 40-45%.
Authors: Hilding R. Neilson, Fabian R.N. Schneider, Robert G. Izzard, Nancy R. Evans, Norbert Langer
This article concludes that MY Cam is the most massive binary star observed and its components, two stars of spectral type O (blue, very hot and bright), 38 and 32 times the Sun's mass, are still on the main sequence and are very close to each other, with an orbital period of less than 1.2 days, in other words, the shortest orbital period in this type of stars. This indicates that the binary was virtually formed as it is now: the stars were almost in contact at the time they were formed.
The expected development is the merger of both components into a single object over 60 solar masses before any of them have time to evolve significantly. Hence, these results demonstrate the viability of some theoretical models suggesting that most massive stars are formed by merging less massive stars.