White dwarfs in globular clusters: Hubble space telescope observations of M4

Harvey B. Richer, Gregory G. Fahlman, Rodrigo A. Ibata, Carlton Pryor, Roger A. Bell, Michael Bolte, Howard E. Bond, William E. Harris, James E. Hesser, Steve Holland, Nicholas Ivanans, Georgi Mandushev, Peter B. Stetson, Matt A. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Using WFPC2 on the Hubble Space Telescope, we have isolated a sample of 258 white dwarfs (WDs) in the Galactic globular cluster M4. Fields at three radial distances from the cluster center were observed, and sizable WD populations were found in all three. The location of these WDs in the color-magnitude diagram, their mean mass of 0.51(±0.03) M, and their luminosity function confirm basic tenets of stellar evolution theory and support the results from current WD cooling theory. The WDs are used to extend the cluster main-sequence mass function upward to stars that have already completed their nuclear evolution. The WD/red dwarf binary frequency in M4 is investigated and is found to be at most a few percent of all the main-sequence stars. The most ancient WDs found are ∼9 Gyr old, a level that is set solely by the photometric limits of our data. Even though this is less than the age of M4, we discuss how these cooling WDs can eventually be used to check the turnoff ages of globular clusters and hence constrain the age of the universe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)741-760
Number of pages20
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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