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Near ir photometry of the old open clusters berkeley 17 and berkeley 18. probing the age of the galactic disc

  • Carraro, Giovanni
  • Vallenari, Antonella
  • Girardi, Leo
  • Richichi, Andrea
Publication Date
Dec 01, 1998
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We report on near IR ($J$ and $K$ bands) observations of two $8 \times 8 \~(arcmin)^{2}$ regions centered on the old open clusters Berkeley~17 and Berkeley~18, for which only optical photometry (in $B$,$V$ and $I$ bands) exists. $J$ and $K$ photometry allows us to obtain an independent estimate of cluster metallicity by means of the relationship between the spectroscopic metallicity and the Red Giant Branch (RGB) slope calibrated by Tiede et al (1997). From the analysis of the colour magnitude diagram (CMD) and luminosity function (LF), Berkeley~17 turns out to have a metal content $[Fe/H]~\sim~-0.35$. It is $9~Gyr$ old, suffers from a reddening $E(B-V) = 0.58 mag$ and has an heliocentric distance of $2.5 kpc$. Berkeley~17 comes out to be substantially younger than in previous work (age $\approx 13~Gyr$). On the other hand Berkeley~18 is found to have solar metal abundance, and to be younger than Berkeley~17, with an age of about $4~Gyr$. While we confirm Kaluzny (1997) reddening estimate, we significantly revise the distance of the cluster, which lies $4.5 kpc$ from the Sun. These results on two open clusters believed to be between the oldest put constraints on the age and the evolution of the Galactic Disc. The absence of clusters older than $8-9~Gyr$ suggests the possibility that the Galaxy underwent a star formation minimum between 13 and $10~Gyr$ ago.

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