Astronomers explore the open cluster Messier 37 and its environs

(ORDO NEWS) — An international team of astronomers conducted an astrometric and photometric wide-field study of the open cluster Messier 37.

As a result, the researchers compiled a complete catalog of more than 200,000 sources in the field of Messier 37 and identified the hottest white dwarf candidates for members of this cluster.

Messier 37 (or M37, also known as NGC 2099) is the brightest and richest galaxy cluster in the constellation Auriga, located at a distance of about 4,500 light-years.

The cluster has a radius of at least 10 light years and a total mass of about 1,500 solar masses. Messier 37 is estimated to be 400-550 million years old and has a metallicity of 0.02-0.08.

Previous observations of Messier 37 have shown that it contains a fairly large population of white dwarf candidates (WDs), consisting of about 50 stars.

Recently, spectroscopic studies have confirmed, rejected or identified new members of the cluster, including a very massive object with a mass of about 1.28 solar masses.

However, the census of white dwarfs in Messier 37 is still incomplete for several reasons, including source crowding, scattering of cluster members, and unresolved binarity with main-sequence companions.

Therefore, a team of astronomers led by Massimo Grigio from the University of Ferrara (Italy) used the 67/92 cm Schmidt telescope in Asiago (Italy) to conduct an astrometric and photometric wide-field study of Messier 37, hoping to find more white dwarfs in this cluster.

The team was able to astrometrically and photometrically identify seven isolated and hot white dwarfs as candidate members of the cluster. An analysis of the spectral energy distribution showed that four of the seven candidates are probable or very probable members of Messier 37.

Astronomers have obtained follow-up low-resolution spectra of one of the newly discovered white dwarfs, designated BK1, confirming that it is a hot (with an effective temperature above 59,000°C) hydrogen-deficient object. This star was previously identified as the likely central star of a faint planetary nebula.

As a result of the study, the scientists also compiled a catalog of 210,907 centered on Messier 37. The catalog contains Sloan filter photometry of these sources and Gaia EDR3 photometry, as well as astrometry for sources that are also present in the Gaia catalog. It supplements already existing Galactic Plane Survey (IGAPS) data from the Isaac Newton Telescope (INT).

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