MAY 10, 2020 5:02 AM PDT

What Exactly Are Star Clusters?

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

When you think of stellar systems, you might be inclined to think of a system like our own with just one star, or perhaps a binary system with two stars, or a trinary system with three. But it’s not uncommon for there to be more than that – sometimes hundreds or thousands of stars in one relatively small region of space (at least in astronomical terms).

When there are countless stars in a tiny region of space, astronomers call this a star cluster. There are two primary types of star clusters, including the open variety, which appear loosely bound and frankly chaotic, whereas the globular variety are exactly what they sound like – a tight formation of stars that look like a glob in space.

Star clusters all form from the same types of material that created our solar system, but thanks to the sheer amount of it present at the time of star formation, many stars are able to exist. These stars don’t follow a traditional orbital plane like the planets in our solar system do, but instead orbit chaotically around an undefined center of mass.

It’s worth noting that these stars are always interacting with one another gravitationally, exchanging energy with one another with each sweeping pass. As they do this, lower-mass stars can eventually accrue enough energy to be ‘flicked’ out of the star cluster while moving along its orbital plane, and some astronomers believe this is how some stars find their way into interstellar space. This process is continuous, and it’s one reason why star clusters don’t last forever.

Between the two types of clusters known to exist, globular star clusters are among the oldest and brightest, containing hundreds of times more stars than their open cluster counterparts. Due to their age, astronomers find a lot of neutron stars and black holes in them, which makes them a particularly interesting point for observations.

Related: Can planets be larger than their host stars?

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
SEP 07, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Earth's Atmosphere Causes Moon to Rust
SEP 07, 2020
Earth's Atmosphere Causes Moon to Rust
Researchers from the University of Hawaii have noticed that the Moon is turning slightly red or 'rusty'- and tha ...
OCT 01, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Four Lakes Detected Under Martian Surface
OCT 01, 2020
Four Lakes Detected Under Martian Surface
  Researchers from Roma Tre University in Italy have confirmed the existence of four large lakes under the ice at M ...
NOV 06, 2020
Space & Astronomy
300 Million Planets in the Milky Way May Be Habitable
NOV 06, 2020
300 Million Planets in the Milky Way May Be Habitable
Researchers have found that there could be at least 300 million habitable worlds in the Milky Way galaxy. This could mea ...
NOV 09, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Icy Planet Between Saturn and Uranus Expelled from Solar System
NOV 09, 2020
Icy Planet Between Saturn and Uranus Expelled from Solar System
In mapping the original locations of Saturn and Jupiter in our Solar System, astronomers have found that there was once ...
DEC 06, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Watching a Nebula Fade
DEC 06, 2020
Watching a Nebula Fade
Nebulas are vast clouds of dust and gas that are remnants of exploded stars or in other cases, nurseries for where stars ...
FEB 17, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Where Did the Comet (or Asteroid) That Killed the Dinosaurs Originate?
FEB 17, 2021
Where Did the Comet (or Asteroid) That Killed the Dinosaurs Originate?
The Chicxulub impactor is thought to have crashed into Earth around 66 million years ago near the Mexican coast. The cra ...
Loading Comments...