Monday, November 16, 2015

Lyra - Globular cluster Messier 56 and Dwarf galaxies

M56 Glubar cluster by Hubble Space Telescope
"Messier 56 Hubble WikiSky" by en:NASA, en:STScI
icensed under Public Domain via Commons

Messier 56 (NGC 6779) is a globular cluster at a distance of about 32,900 light-years from Earth and measures roughly 84 light-years across, with a combined mass some 230,000 times that of the Sun. It is about 31–32 kly (9.5–9.8 kpc) from the Galactic Center and 4.8 kly (1.5 kpc) above the galactic plane. The cluster has an estimated age of 13.70 billion years and is following a retrograde orbit through the Milky Way.

"Charles Messier at Age of 40" by Ansiaume (1729—1786)
Licensed under Public Domain via Commons
M56 was discovered by the French Astronomer Charles Messier (1730 – 1817) on January 19, 1779.
The properties of this cluster suggest that it may have been acquired during the merger of a dwarf galaxy, of which Omega Centauri forms the surviving nucleus. The abundance of elements other than hydrogen and helium (metallicity) has a very low value of [Fe/H] = –2.00 dex. This is equivalent to 1% of the abundance in the Sun.

The brightest stars in M56 are of 13th magnitude, while it contains only about a dozen known variable stars, such as V6 (RV Tauri star; period: 90 days) or V1 (Cepheid: 1.510 days); Other variable stars are V2 (irregular) and V3 (semiregular).

In 2000, a diffuse X-ray emission was tentatively identified coming from the vicinity of the cluster. This is most likely interstellar medium that has been heated by the passage of the cluster through the galactic halo. The relative velocity of the cluster is about 177 km s−1, which is sufficient to heat the medium in its wake to a temperature of 940,000 K..

Globular clusters
A globular cluster is a spherical collection of stars that orbits a galactic core as a satellite.

Globular clusters are very tightly bound by gravity, which gives them their spherical shapes and relatively high stellar densities toward their centers.  They are found in the halo of a galaxy and contain considerably more stars and are much older than the less dense galactic, or open clusters, which are found in the disk.

Every galaxy of sufficient mass in the Local Group has an associated group of globular clusters, and almost every large galaxy surveyed has been found to possess a system of globular clusters. There are about 150 to 158 currently known globular clusters in the Milky Way, with perhaps 10 to 20 more still undiscovered. They orbit the Galaxy at radii of 40 kiloparsecs (130,000 light-years) or more. Larger galaxies can have more: Andromeda, for instance, may have as many as 500. Some giant elliptical galaxies, particularly those at the centers of galaxy clusters, such as M87, have as many as 13,000 globular clusters.

The Sagittarius Dwarf galaxy and the disputed Canis Major Dwarf galaxy appear to be in the process of donating their associated globular clusters (such as Palomar 12) to the Milky Way.  This demonstrates how many of this galaxy's globular clusters might have been acquired in the past.

Although it appears that globular clusters contain some of the first stars to be produced in the galaxy, their origins and their role in galactic evolution are still unclear. It does appear clear that globular clusters are significantly different from dwarf elliptical galaxies and were formed as part of the star formation of the parent galaxy rather than as a separate galaxy. However, recent conjectures by astronomers suggest that globular clusters and dwarf spheroidals may not be clearly separate and distinct types of objects.

Dwarf Galaxies

GALEX. artist's view
image Licensed under Public Domain via Commons
A dwarf galaxy is a small galaxy composed of up to several billion stars, a small number compared to our own Milky Way's 200–400 billion stars. The Large Magellanic Cloud, which closely orbits the Milky Way and contains over 30 billion stars, is sometimes classified as a dwarf galaxy; others consider it a full-fledged galaxy.

Dwarf galaxies' formation and activity are thought to be heavily influenced by interactions with larger galaxies. Astronomers identify numerous types of dwarf galaxies, based on their shape and composition.

Current theory states that most galaxies, including dwarf galaxies, form in association with dark matter, or from gas that contains metals. However, NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer space probe identified new dwarf galaxies forming out of gases lacking metals. These galaxies were located in the Leo Ring, a cloud of hydrogen and helium around two massive galaxies in the constellation Leo.

Because of their small size, dwarf galaxies have been observed being pulled toward and ripped by neighbouring spiral galaxies, resulting in galaxy merger.

Click on the given links for more detailed discussions and references.

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