Multiple Stellar Populations in Three Rich Large Magellanic Cloud Star Clusters

A. D. Mackey, P. Broby Nielsen, A. M. N. Ferguson, J. C. Richardson, Annette Ferguson

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We present deep color-magnitude diagrams for three rich intermediate-age star clusters in the LMC, constructed from archival ACS F435W and F814W imaging. All three clusters exhibit clear evidence for peculiar main-sequence turnoffs. NGC 1846 and 1806 each possess two distinct turnoff branches, while the turnoff for NGC 1783 shows a much larger spread in color than can be explained by the photometric uncertainties. We demonstrate that although all three clusters contain significant populations of unresolved binary stars, these cannot be the underlying cause of the observed turnoff morphologies. The simplest explanation is that each cluster is composed of at least two different stellar populations with very similar metal abundances but ages separated by up to ~300 Myr. The origin of these unusual properties remains unidentified; however, the fact that at least three massive clusters containing multiple stellar populations are now known in the LMC suggests a potentially significant formation channel. Based on observations made with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, obtained at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under NASA contract NAS 5-26555.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2008


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