NGC 2419, M92, and the age gradient in the galactic halo Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • The WFPC2 camera on HST has been used to obtain deep main sequence photometry of the low-metallicity ([Fe/H]=-2.14), outer-halo globular cluster NGC 2419. A differential fit of the NGC 2419 CMD to that of the similarly metal-poor \ standard cluster M92 shows that they have virtually identical principal sequences and thus the same age to well within 1 Gyr. Since other low-metallicity clusters throughout the Milky Way halo have this same age to within the 1-Gyr precision of the differential age technique, we conclude that the earliest star (or globular cluster) formation began at essentially the same time everywhere in the Galactic halo throughout a region now almost 200 kpc in diameter. Thus for the metal-poorest clusters in the halo there is no detectable age gradient with Galactocentric distance. To estimate the absolute age of NGC 2419 and M92, we fit newly computed isochrones transformed through model-atmosphere calculations to the (M_V,V-I) plane, with assumed distance scales that represent the range currently debated in the literature. Unconstrained isochrone fits give M_V(RR) = 0.55 \pm 0.06 and a resulting age of 14 to 15 Gyr. Incorporating the full effects of helium diffusion would further reduce this estimate by about 1 Gyr. A distance scale as bright as M_V(RR) = 0.15 for [Fe/H] = -2, as has recently been reported, would leave several serious problems which have no obvious solution in the context of current stellar models.

authors

  • Harris, William Edgar
  • Bell, Roger A
  • Vandenberg, Don A
  • Bolte, Michael
  • Stetson, Peter B
  • Hesser, James E
  • van den Bergh, Sidney
  • Bond, Howard E
  • Fahlman, Gregory G
  • Richer, Harvey B

publication date

  • September 1997