Shapley's Globular Clusters Documents

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Main Document

Shapley's Globular Clusters 

written by Todd Timberlake

The EJS Shapley's Globular Clusters Model shows the distribution of globular clusters around the plane of the Milky Way as determined by Harlow Shapley in 1918.  The Space View frame shows a 3D view of the distribution of the clusters around the galactic plane, along with the location of the Sun and Shapley's location for the galactic center (as well as the boundary of what Shapley called the "Big Galaxy") as determined by the cluster distribution.  Globular clusters are shown in different colors depending on how their distances were determined: using Cepheid variables (red), brightest stars in the cluster (green), or apparent diameter of the cluster (blue).  Other windows show a plot of the cluster locations projected onto the galactic plane, a plot of the number of clusters versus galactic longitude (showing a peak toward Shapley's proposed galactic center), and a histogram of distances from the galactic plane (showing a dearth of clusters very close to the plane).

The simulation allows the viewer to adjust Shapley's distances to account for the effects of absorption.  Absorption by dust in the galactic plane caused the cluster stars to appear dimmer than they should be from distance alone.  This led Shapley to overestimate their distances, with larger errors for clusters near the galactic plane where absorption effects are greatest.  The simulation uses a model for absorption proposed by Joel Stebbins in 1933.  Stebbins assumed a thin (1 kpc thick), uniform absorbing layer along the galactic plane, with light passing perpendicularly through the plane being dimmed by 0.36 magnitudes.  A slider in the simulation allows the user to adjust the dimming produced by the absorbing layer from 0 (Shapley's assumed value) up to 0.36 (the value found by Stebbins).  The simulation will also display Stebbins' revised galactic center and boundary, which essentially matches the modern view of the Milky Way.

Last Modified October 7, 2013

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Source Code Documents

Shapley's Globular Clusters Source Code 

The source code zip archive contains an XML representation of the EJS Shapley's Globular Clusters Model.  Unzip this archive in your EJS workspace to compile and run this model using EJS.

This material is released under the GNU General Public License Version 3.

Published May 18, 2011
Last Modified May 18, 2011