Home > Astronomy, Astrophysics, General Astronomy > Nearby Star Cluster, Long Forgotten, Now Discovered to Be Useful in Studies of Sun and Search for Planets Like Earth

Nearby Star Cluster, Long Forgotten, Now Discovered to Be Useful in Studies of Sun and Search for Planets Like Earth


A loose group of stars, known for over 180 years but never before studied in detail, has been revealed to be an important new tool in the quest to understand the evolution of stars like the Sun, and in the search for planets like Earth. “We have discovered that a previously unappreciated open star cluster, which is a little younger than our Sun, holds great promise for use as a standard gauge in fundamental stellar astrophysics,” said Jason T. Wright, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State University, who conceived and initiated the research.

When searching for planets with an Earth-like mass and an orbit that allows liquid water to exist on the surface, astronomers often search around stars the mass of the Sun and smaller. “The Ruprecht 147 cluster is very unusual and very important astrophysically because it is close to Earth and its stars are closer to the Sun’s age than those in all the other nearby clusters,” Wright said. “For the first time, we now have a useful laboratory in which to search for and study bright stars that are of similar mass and also of similar age as the Sun. When we discover planets around Sun-like and lower-mass stars, we will be able to interpret how old those stars are by comparing them to the stars in this cluster.”

Full Story: http://science.psu.edu/news-and-events/2012-news/Wright6-2012

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