History of the Universe

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Open Star Clusters

New stars form in groups called open star clusters. These are strung out along the spiral arms like beads in a necklace. Open clusters are much smaller than globular star clusters, containing only a few tens or hundreds of stars.

Open star clusters are important because planets probably form during the creation of some of these stars. Unfortunately it is hard to watch open star clusters form because spiral arms are surrounded by clouds of gas and dust.

Open star cluster image in nearby galaxy from NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) - ESA/Hubble Collaboration

Once the stars begin to shine they blow away the left-over gas and dust. You can see several open star clusters (for example the Pleiades) without binoculars.

After a while, the stars formed in an open star cluster drift apart, probably pulled by the attraction of passing stars. Let's focus down on one star and see how it works.

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History of the Universe eBook
History of the Universe eBook
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Written by Wyken Seagrave
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