In a groundbreaking discovery, a star cluster in the Milky Way, known as M92, has been found to be nearly as old as the universe itself.
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This densely packed ball of stars, located roughly 27,000 light-years from Earth, is estimated to be about 13.8 billion years old, making it one of the oldest known objects in the universe.
The Age of M92: A Cosmic Conundrum
The age of M92, a globular star cluster, was refined using a new technique that sidestepped assumptions about how stellar evolution works. The team created 20,000 synthetic stellar populations for M92, each for a different possible cluster age, and then compared the colors and brightnesses for each of these populations with Hubble Space Telescope observations of M92.
The age that fit the collection best was calculated, reducing the uncertainty of the cluster age by about 50 percent. The M92 in the Milky Way, as old as the universe, is a significant discovery that helps set the lower bound of the age of the universe.
The Importance of M92’s Age
The age of star clusters like M92 is crucial in resolving a rising tension over how fast the universe is growing. Astronomers have known since the 1990s that the universe is expanding at an ever-increasing rate, thanks to a mysterious substance dubbed dark energy. However, recent measurements of the rate of that expansion, a figure called the Hubble constant, disagree with each other. One way around that tension is to accept a different age for the universe. The M92 in the Milky Way, as old as the universe, plays a critical role in this context.
M92: A Key to Understanding the Universe’s Age
Before spacecraft measured the cosmos’ earliest light, globular cluster ages were the best way to place limits on the age of the universe. That practice had fallen out of fashion for a while, but improvements in computing, theory, and measurements of the distances to clusters like M92 make it worth trying again. The M92 in the Milky Way, as old as the universe, provides a valuable constraint in understanding the age of the universe.
Conclusion: The Star Cluster in the Milky Way, as Old as the Universe
The discovery of M92’s age, nearly as old as the universe itself, represents a significant milestone in our understanding of the cosmos. It not only helps set the lower bound of the universe’s age but also contributes to resolving cosmic conundrums about how the universe evolved. As we continue to explore star clusters like M92 and other celestial bodies, we can expect to gain more insights into the age and evolution of our universe. The star cluster in the Milky Way, as old as the universe, serves as a testament to the vastness and complexity of the cosmos.