A New Insight into Open Cluster Internal Dynamics and Neutron Star Formation

Project: Research project

Project Details

Description

This project focuses on a nearby cluster of stars to study a potentially new kind of object; understanding this object may help us understand more about the lives of stars within those clusters, and perhaps the impact of stars on the evolution of clusters in general.

In more detail, our group has previously studied one particular star cluster (the open cluster NGC 6819) with the XMM-Newton X-ray telescope, and found an object not previously seen in open clusters: a binary star system where one of the stars is a compact neutron star, but with relatively low levels of X-ray emission. These kinds of binary star systems are seen in more dense concentrations of stars (called "globular clusters"), but have not been seen so far in the less dense, "open clusters" of stars. The observations proposed here, with the Chandra X-ray Observatory (as well as new observations proposed with the Hubble Space Telescope), have the goal of better constraining this new system, specifically: what is the counterpart of the neutron star?

When these results are analyzed, we will know whether the neutron star is indeed part of a binary system. If it is, this has important implications, as it generally recognized to be difficult for clusters to retain neutron stars, if they are born in violent supernova explosions, which can kick the nascent neutron star out of the cluster. These observations, and the crucial numerical analysis of how this binary system might have formed, could therefore shed new light on the formation of neutron stars, and on the importance of interactions between stars in star clusters.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date8/5/138/4/15

Funding

  • Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (GO3-14043B//NAS-8-03060)
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (GO3-14043B//NAS-8-03060)

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