The age of westerland 1 revisited

Emma R. Beasor, Ben Davies, Nathan Smith, Robert D. Gehrz, Donald F. Figer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The cluster Westerlund 1 (Wd1) is host to a large variety of post-main-sequence (MS) massive stars. The simultaneous presence of these stars can only be explained by stellar models if the cluster has a finely tuned age of 4–5 Myr, with several published studies independently claiming ages within this range. At this age, stellar models predict that the cool supergiants (CSGs) should have luminosities of log(L L)» 5.5, close to the empirical luminosity limit. Here, we test that prediction using archival data and new photometry from Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy to estimate bolometric luminosities for the CSGs. We find that these stars are on average 0.4 dex too faint to be 5 Myr old, regardless of which stellar evolutionary model is used, and instead are indicative of a much older age of 10.4-+1.21.3 Myr. We argue that neither systematic uncertainties in the extinction law nor stellar variability can explain this discrepancy. In reviewing various independent age estimates of Wd1 in the literature, we first show that those based on stellar diversity are unreliable. Second, we reanalyze Wd1’s pre-MS stars employing the Damineli extinction law, finding an age of 7.2-+2.31.1 Myr; older than that of previous studies, but which is vulnerable to systematic errors that could push the age close to 10 Myr. However, there remains significant tension between the CSG age and that inferred from the eclipsing binary W13. We conclude that stellar evolutionary models cannot explain Wd1 under the single-age paradigm. Instead, we propose that the stars in the Wd1 region formed over a period of several megayears.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number16
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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