Younger and Brighter - New Distances to Globular Clusters Based on HIPPARCOS Parallax Measurements of Local Subdwarfs
We have used new parallax measurements, obtained by the Hipparcos satellite, of fifteen nearby, metal-poor stars to re-define the subdwarf main-sequence. All of these stars have parallaxes determined to an accuracy of at least 12%. Comparing these measurements against previous ground-based data for nine stars reveals a systematic offset of 5%, in the sense that the Hipparcos parallaxes are smaller (i.e., the inferred distances are larger). The availability of the Hipparcos observations expands the local subdwarf sample to the extent that we can separate the stars by abundance into intermediate ([Fe/H]∼-1.4) and extreme ([Fe/H] ∼-2) subsets. Main-sequence fitting techniques are then used to match stars of the appropriate abundance range to the color-magnitude diagrams of the seven globular clusters: M5, NGC 6752, M13, M13, M92, M30, and M68. We derive respective distance moduli of 14.45, 13.17, 14.48, 15.38, 14.93, 14.95, and 15.29 magnitudes, with formal uncertainties of ±0.1 mag. The metal-poor systems M68, M15, and M30 have moderate foreground reddening, and varying by ±0.02 mag can change the derived distances by up to ±7%. With the exception of NGC 6752, however, our derived distances exceed previous estimates, particularly in the case of the four [Fe/H]∼-2.1 globulars, where our distance moduli are 0.3 mag higher than the current standard values. We discuss briefly how these findings affect the RR Lyrae distance scale, isochrone-based estimates of the age of globular clusters and our picture of the early stages of star formation in the Galaxy. We note that our results go some way towards reconciling the apparent contradiction between the cluster ages and recent determinations of the Hubble constant.