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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Progress in globular cluster research : insights from NGC 6397 and Messier 4 Davis, Saul


Globular clusters are extreme stellar populations. They have the highest stellar density, and host both the oldest and most metal-poor stellar populations in the Galaxy. Their densities make them excellent testbeds for stellar dynamics, while the properties of their stars allows us to test our understanding of old and metal-poor stellar evolution. This thesis is comprised of three projects studying the two nearest globular clusters, NGC 6397 and Messier 4. By examining high-quality HST photometry of NGC 6397, we have constrained the binary fraction in both the central regions, and beyond the half-light radius. We find a binary fraction of ~0.05 in the core and ~0.015 in the outskirts. In the context of recent N-body simulations by Hurley et al., we interpret the observed binary fraction in the outer field as the primordial binary fraction. This value is lower than typically assumed, and has implications for cluster dynamics and N-body modeling. We report the discovery that young white dwarfs are dynamically hotter than their progenitors. Using the same photometry as mentioned above, and archival HST photometry of Messier 4, we have found that young white dwarfs have an extended radial distribution, and therefore a higher velocity dispersion, compared with older white dwarfs and their progenitors. This implies the existence of a ``natal kick''. Implications for cluster dynamics and stellar evolution are discussed. Finally, we present the spectra of 23 white dwarfs in Messier 4 obtained with the Keck/LRIS and Gemini/GMOS spectrographs. We find that all white dwarfs are of type DA. Assuming the same DA/DB ratio as is observed in the field, the chance of finding no DBs in our sample due to statistical fluctuations is 0.006. This suggests DB formation is suppressed in the cluster environment. Furthermore, we constrain the mass of these white dwarfs by fitting models to the spectral lines. Our best estimate of the masses of the white dwarfs currently forming in Messier 4 is 0.51+/-0.02 M_sun.This extends the empirical constraint on the initial-final mass relation over the entire range of initial masses that could have formed white dwarfs in a Hubble time.

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