Discrepancies in the ages of young star clusters; Evidence for mergers?

Emma R. Beasor, Ben Davies, Nathan Smith, Nate Bastian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


There is growing evidence that star clusters can no longer be considered simple stellar populations. Intermediate- and old-age clusters are often found to have extended main-sequence turn-offs (eMSTOs) which are difficult to explain with single-age isochrones, an effect attributed to rotation. In this paper, we provide the first characterization of this effect in young (<20 Myr) clusters. We determine ages for four young massive clusters (2 Large Magellanic Cloud and 2 Galactic) by three different methods: using the brightest single turn-off (TO) star; using the luminosity function (LF) of the TO; and by using the lowest Lbol red supergiant (RSG). The age found using the cluster TO is consistently younger than the age found using the lowest RSG Lbol. Under the assumption that the lowest luminosity RSG age is the 'true' age, we argue that the eMSTOs of these clusters cannot be explained solely by rotation or unresolved binaries. We speculate that the most luminous stars above the TO are massive blue straggler stars formed via binary interaction, either as mass gainers or merger products. Therefore, using the cluster TO method to infer ages and initial masses of post-MS stars, such as Wolf-Rayet stars, luminous blue variables, and RSGs, will result in ages inferred being too young and masses too high.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)266-273
Number of pages8
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 11 2019


  • blue stragglers
  • stars: evolution
  • stars: massive

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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