(ORDO NEWS) — European, Iranian and Chinese astronomers have discovered that the spatial structure of five nearby open star clusters in the Milky Way does not match what Newtonian gravity predicts.
The work was published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The press service of the University of Bonn announced the results on Wednesday.
“In accordance with Newton’s law of gravitation, the nature of the “escape” of stars from open clusters depends entirely on chance.
Our observations for the first time indicated that this is not so – in the vicinity of the front parts of the clusters we studied, there are significantly more” escaped “stars than directly behind them,” said Jan Pflamm-Altenburg, a researcher at the University of Bonn (Germany), whose words are reported by the press service of the university.
Newton’s law of universal gravitation governs the motion of all celestial bodies and their interactions with each other.
Over the past few centuries, scientists have discovered many signs that it works both on the scale of the smallest microparticles and controls the movement of giant clusters of galaxies with diameters of millions of light years.
Pflamm-Altenburg and his colleagues found that Newton’s theory of gravity may not be true. They made this discovery while observing the movements of stars in five open clusters of stars that formed relatively recently and have not yet had time to completely disintegrate.
Space gravity anomalies
Gravitational interactions between stars in such objects, astronomers explain, cause most of the stars to be gradually ejected from the confines of clusters and form “tidal tails” that move through outer space a short distance in front of and immediately behind the cluster.
In the past, astronomers could not accurately determine the position and speed of the stars inside the “tidal tails”.
This became possible after the launch in 2013 of the orbital observatory GAIA, capable of calculating the coordinates of more than a billion stars in the immediate vicinity of the Galaxy.
Using GAIA resources, Pflamm-Altenburg and colleagues studied the structure of five nearby open star clusters. These included Hyades, Manger, Coma Veronica, NGC 752 and COIN-Gaia 13.
All of them contain several hundred stars, a significant part of which managed to “escape” from these clusters in the 500-600 million years from the moment they began to form.
Measurements with the help of GAIA showed that there were more “escaped” luminaries in the vicinity of the front of all five clusters than directly behind them.
This arrangement of stars cannot be explained using Newton’s law, but it does fit with some alternative theories of gravity.
Follow-up observations of other star clusters will hopefully confirm the existence of these gravitational anomalies and help astronomers understand what caused them.
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