Submitting Campus

Daytona Beach


Physical Sciences

Document Type


Publication/Presentation Date

Summer 9-6-2005


The study of open clusters has a classic feel to it since the subject predates anyone alive today. Despite the age of this topic, I show via an ADS search that its relevance and importance in astronomy has grown faster in the last few decades than astronomy in general. This is surely due to both technical reasons and the interconnection of the field of stellar evolution to many branches of astronomy. In this review, I outline what we know today about open clusters and what they have taught us about a range of topics from stellar evolution to Galactic structure to stellar disk dissipation timescales. I argue that the most important astrophysics we have learned from open clusters is stellar evolution and that its most important product has been reasonably precise stellar ages. I discuss where open cluster research is likely to go in the next few years, as well as in the era of 20m telescopes, SIM, and GAIA. Age will continue to be of wide relevance in astronomy, from cosmology to planet formation timescales, and with distance errors soon no longer a problem, improved ages will be critically important to many of the most fascinating astrophysical questions.

Number of Pages


Grant or Award Name

NASA grant NAG5- 13070, NSF grant AST-0307315

Additional Information

Dr. von Hippel was not affiliated with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University at the time this paper was published.