S316p.42 — The old, massive, metal rich open cluster NGC 6791

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Aug 10th at 6:00 PM until 7:30 PM

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Author(s): Giovanni Carraro1

Institution(s): 1. ESO

NGC~6791 is a rich open cluster that attracted a lot of attention in the last decade. Recent estimates indicate that the mass is even larger, around 5000\,$\mathrm{M}_{\odot}$. This is quite remarkable: the cluster is in fact 8\,Gyr old, while the typical dissolution time for Galactic open clusters is a few Myr only. This might imply that the cluster managed to survive so long either because its original mass was much larger, or because it moved along a preferential orbit. In any case, such combination of old age and large mass is unique among Galactic open clusters, especially for clusters located in the inner regions of the Galactic disk. This is not the only special property of NGC 6791. Its abundance in iron is [Fe/H] $\sim$ +0.40. again unique among Galactic star clusters of the same age range. Significant dispersions in various elements have been detected, that are not routinely found in Galactic open clusters. The combined UV flux of the few hot HB stars makes the cluster the closest proxy of an elliptical galaxy. This surprising result might indeed indicate that NGC 6791 was massive enough at origin to experience a strong burst of star formation and a fast enrichment.
This pletora of unique properties renders NGC 6791 an extremely important object to study and understand.
How and where could such a stellar system have formed? Is NGC 6791 just an open cluster? Did it form close to the bulge? How could have survived in the adverse, high-density, environment of the inner Galactic disk?
These are difficult questions to answer to, of course. One of the still missing key observational evidence is whether the cluster suffered from tidal interaction, that could have significantly decreased its mass. We find such evidences, and use them as an argument to support a scenario in which the cluster formed as a massive object. We also estimate, using approximate analytic description based on available $N$-body models, how much mass NGC~6791 lost, and which was its probable mass at formation.