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article imageESO's VISTA discovers old globular clusters of stars

By JohnThomas Didymus     Oct 19, 2011 in Science
Santiago - Two Globular clusters of very old stars in our galaxy have been discovered. The European Southern Observatory's (ESO) VISTA Survey telescope at Paranal Observatory in Chile, made the new discoveries.
The latest discoveries, Space.com says, add two globular clusters of stars to the list of 158 globular clusters astronomers have identified in our Milky Way Galaxy. The two newly discovered globular clusters have been named vvv CL001 and vvv CL002.
Astronomers at the Paranal Observatory found the two star clusters in an ongoing survey which has also located another star cluster lying beyond the center of the Milky Way. ESO.org says the Via Lactea (vvv) survey is systematically studying VISTA Variables in the infrared spectrum. The discovery of the two globular clusters vvv CL001 and vvv CL002, came as pleasant surprise to astronomers. The infrared image on which the first cluster vvv CL001 was discovered was dominated by the bright light of the UKS 1 globular cluster. vvv CL001 was only a very faint image on the left half of the infrared image. vvv CL002 also appeared as a very faint spot on another infrared image of VISTA variables in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.
Officials of the European Southern Observatory say vvv CL002 is the closest globular cluster to the center of the Milky Way Galaxy known.
Some clusters of stars are very difficult to detect because light from them is obscured by thick interstellar dust and cloud, especially at the center of our galaxy. Interstellar dust absorbs other wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum allowing only red light through. Astronomers may, therefore, only detect clusters obscured by interstellar dust and cloud by observing in infrared spectrum. But even in the infrared spectrum some clusters are still very difficult to detect.
The light of vvv CL001 is obscured by UKS 1 cluster astronomers discovered in 1980. Till the discovery of vvv CL001 and vvv CL002, UKS 1 cluster was the faintest globular cluster known to astronomers.
ESO officials say vvv CLOO1 and UKS 1 could be a binary globular cluster pair, that is, vvv CL001 is gravitationally linked to UKS 1 such that the two stars orbit each other. If astronomers' guess is correct then vvv CL001 and UKS 1 are the first binary globular clusters pair discovered.
Globular clusters are of special interest to astronomers because they are among the oldest structures known and contain some of the first stars produced in the galaxy. Astronomers are still uncertain of their role in galactic evolution, and believe that studying them could provide useful clues about our Galaxy in its early stages.
Images of the newly discovered globular clusters may be seen here.
More about Vista, globular clusters, Milky way, vvv CL001, vvvv CL002
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