Young massive clusters (YMCs) are dense aggregates of young stars that form the fundamental building blocks of galaxies. Several examples exist in the Milky Way Galaxy and the Local Group, but they are particularly abundant in starburst and interacting galaxies. The few YMCs that are close enough to resolve are of prime interest for studying the stellar mass function and the ecological interplay between stellar evolution and stellar dynamics. The distant unresolved clusters may be effectively used to study the star-cluster mass function, and they provide excellent constraints on the formation mechanisms of young cluster populations. YMCs are expected to be the nurseries for many unusual objects, including a wide range of exotic stars and binaries. So far only a few such objects have been found in YMCs, although their older cousins, the globular clusters, are unusually rich in stellar exotica. In this review, we focus on star clusters younger than ∼100 Myr, more than a few current crossing times old, and more massive than ∼104M⊙; the size of the cluster and its environment are considered less relevant as distinguishing parameters. We describe the global properties of the currently known young massive star clusters in the Local Group and beyond, and discuss the state of the art in observations and dynamical modeling of these systems. In order to make this review readable by observers, theorists, and computational astrophysicists, we also review the cross-disciplinary terminology.
Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Pub Date:
- September 2010
- Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies;
- Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics
- Only 88 pages. To be published in ARAA. Final version to be submitted on Friday 12 February