Birth Mystery of Stellar Snow Globe Deepens

Nov 26, 2014

Photograph By ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2

By Andrew Fazekas

The Hubble Space Telescope’s recent images of giant balls of stars in a nearby galaxy, reported on Thursday, have astronomers puzzled as to the star balls’ origins.

Multitudes of such “globular” star clusters, each filled with hundreds of thousands of the oldest stars in the universe, lie scattered around our own Milky Way and other galaxies. But how and why they’re born has long been a mystery.

Based on observations of our home galaxy, astronomers thought that globulars must form in galactic regions that are awash in elderly stars. But Hubble’s observations of the Fornax dwarf galaxy, a small satellite of the Milky Way some 460,000 light-years from Earth, have upended that idea. A paper in the Astrophysical Journal on the Fornax galaxy shows that it’s home to four globular clusters—yet there aren’t many old stars in its host galaxy.

“Our leading formation theory just can’t be right,” said astronomer Frank Grundahl of Aarhus University in Denmark, a coauthor of the new paper, in a press statement.

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2 comments on “Birth Mystery of Stellar Snow Globe Deepens

  • I wonder if they have ruled out Dark Matter. Just as Dark Matter is believed to have been involved in the formation and the holding-together of galaxies, perhaps areas within a galaxy having an abundance of Dark Matter can form these structures. My guess though is that Dark Matter does not have such an effect on that small of a scale.

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    NearlyNakedApe says:

    My guess though is that Dark Matter does not have such an effect on that small of a scale.

    I suppose that would be a natural assumption to make but then again, who says that dark matter has to be evenly distributed across the universe? Maybe there are regions where dense clumps of dark matter gather and increase the gravitational pull on the nearby stars thus creating these unusual star clusters…

    Or maybe I’m missing something essential about dark matter?… The case being, perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I can set me straight?

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