Open and globular star clusters have served as benchmarks for the study of stellar evolution due to their supposed nature as simple stellar populations of the same age and metallicity. After a brief review of some of the pioneering work that established the importance of imaging stars in these systems, we focus on several recent studies that have challenged our fundamental picture of star clusters. These new studies indicate that star clusters can very well harbour multiple stellar populations, possibly formed through self-enrichment processes from the first-generation stars that evolved through post-main-sequence evolutionary phases. Correctly interpreting stellar evolution in such systems is tied to our understanding of both chemical-enrichment mechanisms, including stellar mass loss along the giant branches, and the dynamical state of the cluster. We illustrate recent imaging, spectroscopic and theoretical studies that have begun to shed new light on the evolutionary processes that occur within star clusters.
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series A
- Pub Date:
- January 2010
- Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies;
- Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics
- 27 pages, 8 figures. To appear as invited review article in a special issue of the Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. A: Ch. 4 "Star clusters as tracers of galactic star-formation histories" (ed. R. de Grijs). Fully peer reviewed. LaTeX, requires rspublic.cls style file