A cluster with a secret

Sep 05, 2012
This image from the Wide Field Imager attached to the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory shows the spectacular globular star cluster Messier 4. This great ball of ancient stars is one of the closest of such stellar systems to the Earth and appears in the constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion) close to the bright red star Antares. Credit: ESO/ESO Imaging Survey

(Phys.org)—A new image from ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile shows the spectacular globular star cluster Messier 4. This ball of tens of thousands of ancient stars is one of the closest and most studied of the globular clusters and recent work has revealed that one of its stars has strange and unexpected properties, apparently possessing the secret of eternal youth.

The is orbited by more than 150 globular star clusters that date back to the distant past of the Universe. One of the closest to the Earth is the cluster Messier 4 (also known as NGC 6121) in the constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion). This bright object can be easily seen in binoculars, close to the bright red star Antares, and a small can show some of its constituent stars.

This new image of the cluster from the Wide Field Imager (WFI) on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO's reveals many more of the cluster's tens of thousands of stars and shows the cluster against the rich background of the Milky Way.

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This video gives a close-up view of a new image from the Wide Field Imager attached to the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory showing the spectacular globular star cluster Messier 4. This great ball of ancient stars is one of the closest such stellar systems to the Earth and appears in the constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion) close to the bright red star Antares. Credit: ESO

Astronomers have also studied many of the stars in the cluster individually using instruments on ESO's Very Large Telescope. By splitting the light from the stars up into its component colours they can work out their chemical composition and ages.

New results for the stars in Messier 4 have been surprising. The stars in are old and hence not expected to be rich in the heavier chemical elements. This is what is found, but one of the stars in a recent survey was also found to have much more of the rare light element lithium than expected. The source of this lithium is mysterious. Normally this element is gradually destroyed over the billions of years of a star's life, but this one star amongst thousands seems to have the secret of eternal youth. It has either somehow managed to retain its original lithium, or it has found a way to enrich itself with freshly made lithium.

Explore further: Astrophysicists offer new research, tool for identifying habitable zones

More information: A research paper about the surprisingly lithium-rich star in Messier 4 (Monaco et al.)

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User comments : 21

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cantdrive85
1.3 / 5 (13) Sep 05, 2012
Anyone really want to know the secret? Come closer, I don't want to offend any sensitive astrophysicists or their multitude of mindless disciples. The secret is.... that the nebular star formation theory and the standard theory's "life" cycle of stars is total bunk. It's a poor hypothesis based upon misrepresented data/observations and a long line of unsupported assumptions.
JRDarby
5 / 5 (1) Sep 05, 2012
What do you believe is (are) the correct alternative(s) to those theories?
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (11) Sep 05, 2012
In a 'Plasma Universe', all the stars are electric and are formed by cosmic z-pinches where interstellar Birkeland currents feed the electrical energy to the star. The difference between a brown dwarf, red giant, blue giant, or "neutron" stars is not age, but the amount of electrical energy flowing into the star.
Shootist
2.6 / 5 (5) Sep 05, 2012
The Electric Universe!

Hogwash.

Where's Oliver? He was so much more entertaining.
Tuxford
1.4 / 5 (10) Sep 05, 2012
JR,

I have found all recent observations to support LaViolette's 'continuous creation' model, or at least, not to contradict his model. This cannot be said of the Big Bang Fantasy.

http://starburstf...smology/

Watch out for the righteous egomaniacal science fanatics. They will bully you into the intellectual event horizon, never to return....
Solon
1 / 5 (2) Sep 05, 2012
I read that after surveying thousands of stars within clusters that no planets have been found orbiting any of them. What is different about stars in clusters, as opposed to those like our own Sun?
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (3) Sep 05, 2012
I do support the steady state Universe model too, but to consider single, apparently exceptional example as an evidence of whatever theory is simply naive. Such an isolated example could be rather considered as an evidence against it.
Fleetfoot
5 / 5 (2) Sep 05, 2012
I do support the steady state Universe model too, but to consider single, apparently exceptional example as an evidence of whatever theory is simply naive. ..


If you read the article, there is no theory proposed, it is simply noted as a very unusual observation.
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (4) Sep 05, 2012
I'm not reflecting the article, but post in comment section here. If you would know about LaViolette, you would understand he's a proponent of Steady state Universe model and you would get the concept of my comment.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (5) Sep 05, 2012
I read that after surveying thousands of stars within clusters that no planets have been found orbiting any of them. What is different about stars in clusters, as opposed to those like our own Sun?

The means by which they use to detect planets orbiting stars was unsuccessful, this may suggest the methodology is used incorrectly or the data they use to make such claims (of planets around other stars) is being misinterpreted. Or, it could suggest there are no planets and the laws of physics are just different there (as in black holes), however unlikely that may be.
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (3) Sep 05, 2012
The situation when isolated example is selected for confirmation of theory is called the data fishing or data dredging. You should always keep it on mind, when extrapolating the observations of exceptional objects like this one.
philw1776
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 05, 2012
I read that after surveying thousands of stars within clusters that no planets have been found orbiting any of them. What is different about stars in clusters, as opposed to those like our own Sun?


Good question. Aside from the possibility that the search was somehow flawed (unlikely as it involved observing occultations and lack of same) Globular clusters are very different environments than the far more numerous stars in the galactic arms. Globular cluster stars are older and lack "metals" elements heavier than helium, elements that make up planets so they may have been born before enough stars died to create elements.
yyz
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 05, 2012
"I read that after surveying thousands of stars within clusters that no planets have been found orbiting any of them. What is different about stars in clusters, as opposed to those like our own Sun?"

As mentioned by philw1776, the age and (low) metallicity of globular clusters make them less likely to host planets (especially gas giants). However "Methuselah", an ancient planet with 2.5 times the mass of Jupiter orbiting a pulsar-white dwarf binary in this very globular cluster ,M4 , was first announced in 1993: http://en.wikiped...620-26_b

A Hubble ACS image of the PSR B1620-26 system near the core of M4: http://en.wikiped...0-26.jpg
PinkElephant
4.8 / 5 (5) Sep 06, 2012
@Tuxford,

Big Bang does not arise just from redshift observations. It predicts the cosmic microwave background and its topological features, as now observed. It predicts relative abundances of elements, as observed. It predicts galaxy age to decrease with distance (e.g. as measured by average metallicity, and as is indeed observed.) Where are the nearby quasars?

Cosmological redshift caused by spacetime expansion affects all wavelengths of light by an equal amount (as it does, per observations.) A kinematic tired-light theory is liable to conclude that higher-energy photons must lose energy faster (generating more "friction" against the substrate.)

Steady-state cosmologies fail to explain all the empty space: in an eternal Euclidean universe where matter is produced steadily at all points in space, all of space should fill up with matter (or with black holes, rather...) At least, the temperature (matter/energy density) across the universe should be perfectly uniform...

etc.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Sep 10, 2012
Steady-state cosmologies fail to explain all the empty space: in an eternal Euclidean universe where matter is produced steadily at all points in space,

Steady state unverses also fall into Olber's paradox.
Fleetfoot
5 / 5 (1) Sep 10, 2012
Steady state universe also fall into Olber's paradox.
Why it should fail? You cannot observe the very remote sources with surface ripples at the water surface because of scattering ..


Scattering does not reduce the number of photons. Olbers' paradox needs to be modified to account for cosmological redshift but it then predicts a background glow with a flat spectrum below a cutoff (i.e frequency limited white noise) which isn't observed. The CMBR has a thermal spectrum, not flat.
Fleetfoot
5 / 5 (1) Sep 10, 2012
A kinematic tired-light theory is liable to conclude that higher-energy photons must lose energy faster (generating more "friction" against the substrate
Actually they do lose energy faster: the GZK limit applies to high energy photons, not these low energetic ones.


Only at around 10^19eV or more whil the thermal photons of the CMBR are received in the microwave range.

Your suggestion is also logically the wrong way round, the CMBR intensity is too low for the steady state models at low frequencies, not at the high end.
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (4) Sep 10, 2012
Scattering does not reduce the number of photons.
Scattering at the water surface does. The ripples disappear in (additional dimensions of) underwater. We already observed, that the dimensionality of space-time goes down with distance - i.e. something, which Big Bang cosmology doesn't predict.
the CMBR intensity is too low for the steady state models at low frequencies
Nope, it's perfect.
Fleetfoot
5 / 5 (2) Sep 10, 2012
the CMBR intensity is too low for the steady state models at low frequencies
Nope, it's perfect.


Nope, it is vastly wrong. Try working it out for yourself, it's actually very simple, you barely need any maths, just some simple logic.
PinkElephant
not rated yet Sep 12, 2012
@natello,
You cannot observe the very remote sources with surface ripples at the water surface because of scattering
Scattering won't work too well for long-wave photons (like radio waves), which under any tired-light theory would take much greater distances than observable universe's radius to dissipate. The sky should be ablaze with radio waves in all directions, so as to make radio astronomy impossible. Olbers' paradox does apply.
the steady state model just considers the balance of matter production and evaporation.
The half-life of a proton (a hydrogen nucleus) is at least 10^33 years (this is the experimentally established floor as of today; the real value could be much greater still.) All currently available hydrogen will be burned up by stars within the universe's first quadrillion (10^15) years. For steady-state (and to maintain observed element abundance ratios), fresh hydrogen must be continually generated much faster than matter could ever decay.
PinkElephant
not rated yet Sep 12, 2012
The fluctuations of temperature/density/entropy may be everywhere, but they're gradually balanced with another ones like the density fluctuations inside of dense gas.
Exactly. Which means over time (which under steady-state, is *infinite* time), such fluctuations will average themselves out until the distant universe looks exactly uniform in all directions. Think of the second law of thermodynamics: given enough time, every system eventually arrives at a complete equilibrium.

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