Open cluster stability and the effects of binary stars

R. de Grijs*, S. P. Goodwin, N. Kouwenhoven, P. Kroupa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Citations (Scopus)


The diagnostic age versus mass-to-light ratio diagram is often used in attempts to constrain the shape of the stellar initial mass function (IMF) and the potential longevity of extragalactic young to intermediate-age massive star clusters. Here, we explore its potential for Galactic open clusters. On the basis of a small, homogenised cluster sample, we provide useful constraints on the presence of significant binary fractions. Using the massive young Galactic cluster Westerlund 1 as a key example, we caution that stochasticity in the IMF introduces significant additional uncertainties. We conclude that, for an open cluster to survive for any significant length of time, and in the absence of substantial external perturbations, it is necessary but not sufficient to be located close to or (in the presence of a significant binary population) somewhat below the predicted photometric evolutionary sequences for "normal" simple stellar populations, although such a location may be dominated by a remaining "bound" cluster core and thus not adequately reflect the overall cluster dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)685-693
Number of pages9
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • galaxy: open clusters and associations: individual: Westerlund 1, NGC 1976, Hyades, Coma Berenices, Orion Nebular Cluster
  • stellar dynamics
  • methods: observational
  • Galaxy: open clusters and associations: general

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