Benjamin Courtney-Barrer, a Gemini South intern from the Australian National University, is immersed in Flamingos-2 data on a Milky Way massive star cluster. His goal: to determine the cluster’s age and ultimately its origin.
Benjamin’s mentor, assistant astronomer Morten Andersen explains that these data are being combined with photometry from deep near-infrared imaging for the individual stars being studied. “Knowledge of the colors and brightnesses of each object is then used to infer the age of the cluster,” says Andersen.
Star clusters contain tens of thousands of tightly packed stars and it is this crowded environment that makes them so challenging to study. The best observing conditions are needed to resolve individual stars and obtain the quality data that Benjamin needs for his work.
Benjamin explains that these objects are important tracers of star formation and dynamics of our galaxy and can ultimately reveal details on the formation and evolution of the Milky Way Galaxy. “Massive star clusters are a kind of astronomical fossil that helps astronomers unveil the formation process in our galaxy, and possibly other galaxies as well,” concludes Benjamin.
– With Morten Andersen and Benjamin Courtney-Barrer