Astronomers from the University of Heidelberg have identified two tidal tails with approximately five hundred stars extending up to 650 light-years. The discovery gives us an insight into open star clusters and how they evolve.
What are open star clusters?
- Open star clusters are collections of approximately 100 to a few thousand stars;
- They emerge from a collapsing gas cloud and move through space; and
- They begin to disperse after a few hundred million years.
How do tidal tails form?
One of factors which works against the gravitationally bound stars is the galaxy‘s tidal force. It pulls stars out of the cluster, and then tidal tails form during the movement of the star cluster through the Milky Way.
A glimpse into the trajectories of open star clusters
The Hyades is one of the best-studied open star clusters. Scientists from the Centre for Astronomy of Heidelberg University (ZAH) have detected the tidal tails for the first time in the Hyades, with researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg.
Dr Siegfried Röser of the Königstuhl State Observatory of the ZAH, explained: “Our discovery shows that it is possible to trace the trajectories of individual stars of the Milky Way back to their point of origin in a star cluster.”
Dr Röser said he believes that this is the beginning of many significant discoveries in galactic astronomy.