The Oldest Star Clusters in the Universe

Many years of research and analysis have yielded great results for the Universe, for finding the age of the stars and for knowing more about the Milky Way. In the Milky Way, the scientists have discovered a cluster of ancient stars that is around 12.8 billion years old, and it’s called HP 1. According to various studies, that makes it the older star ever found!

Back in 1997, the results and the estimation for this cluster’s age pointed to around 13.8 billion years old.  But because of the distortion of light in the atmosphere and the technology, the results were conflicting and complicated.

Astronomer Stefano Souza from Universidade de Sᾶo Paulo in Brazil, says that this star cluster is, in fact, an ancient fossil, except that it’s buried in our Galaxy’s bulge. Because of the improvement of technology, the adaptive optics, and with the help of Gemini South telescope in Chile, scientists were able to reveal the HP 1 history.

We now know that these stars are the oldest and that the Universe was very young at that time. An interesting fact is that the massive stars have a short life, while the stars that are smaller than the Sun could live for trillions of years.

The Hubble Space Telescope and Gemini help the astronomers with optical images to identify the faintest stars in the HP 1 cluster.  Also, with the help of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, they have taken the measurements for the magnitude of the stars, and now it’s more accurate.  This diagram showed that the cluster is about 21.500 light-years away from Earth.

A detail that helps astronomers calculate the age of the stars is the presence of metals. What we need to know is that, at the very beginning of the Universe, there was a lack of metals.  But those metals had to be created somehow, right? And just at the heart of the stars, the first generation of metals appeared, which was then expelled into space. With the material that resulted, new stars were born.

The HP 1 cluster is low in metal, so the astronomers think that they have been formed one billion years before the Universe. The older the star is, the lower the level of metallicity. So if the star is younger, the level of metallicity is higher. Finally, now, with the help of Gemini images, with the studies done on HP 1, scientists can understand more about the Universe, the age of stars, the Milky Way and our Galaxy’s past and present.

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