Globular clusters could be up to 4 billion years younger than previously thought, new research led by the University of Warwick has found.
Comprised of hundreds of thousands of stars densely packed into a tight ball, globular clusters had been thought to be almost as old as the Universe itself — but thanks to newly developed research models it has been shown that they could be as young as 9 billion years old rather than 13 billion.
The discovery brings into question current theories on how galaxies, including the Milky Way, were formed — with between 150-180 clusters thought to exist in the Milky Way alone — as globular clusters had previously been thought to be almost as old as the Universe itself. Paper. (paywall) – E R Stanway, J J Eldridge. Reevaluating Old Stellar Populations. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2018; DOI: 10.1093/mnras/sty1353 More.
It “brings into question” more than the mechanics of galaxy formation. There is considerable distance between nine billion years and thirteen billion years. An equivalent claim for life on Earth would shave a billion years off the development of life.
If it’s true, it’s true. But the finding doesn’t fill onlookers with confidence about the accuracy of dating systems.
See also: “Complete surprise”: Stars are not necessarily born in the way we thought. Also, galaxies can form much faster than thought