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Fundamental parameters of six neglected old open clusters
In this paper, we present the first BV I CCD photometry of sixoverlooked old open clusters (Berkeley 44, NGC 6827, Berkeley 52,Berkeley 56, Skiff 1 and Berkeley 5) and derive estimates of theirfundamental parameters by using isochrones from the Padova library. Wefound that all the clusters are older than the Hyades, with ages rangingfrom 0.8Gyr (NGC 6827 and Berkeley 5) to 4.0Gyr (Berkeley 56). Thelatter is one of the old open clusters with the largest heliocentricdistance.In the field of Skiff 1, we recognize a faint blue main sequenceidentical to the one found in the background of open clusters in thesecond and third Galactic quadrant, and routinely attributed to theCanis Major accretion event. We use the synthetic colour-magnitudediagram method and a Galactic model to show that this population can beeasily interpreted as a thick disc and halo population towards Skiff 1.We finally revise the age distribution of the old open clusters, showingthat the previously suggested peak at 5Gyr looses importance asadditional old clusters are discovered.

On the recent star formation history of the Milky Way disk
We have derived the star formation history of the Milky Way disk overthe last 2 Gyr from the age distribution diagram of a large sample ofopen clusters comprising more than 580 objects. By interpreting the agedistribution diagram using numerical results from an extensive libraryof N-body calculations carried out during the last ten years, wereconstruct the recent star formation history of the Milky Way disk.Under the assumption that the disk has never been polluted by anyextragalactic stellar populations, our analysis suggests thatsuperimposed on a relatively small level of constant star formationactivity mainly in small-N star clusters, the star formation rate hasexperienced at least five episodes of enhanced star formation lastingabout 0.2 Gyr with production of larger clusters. This cyclic behaviourshows a period of 0.4+/-0.1 Gyr and could be the result of density wavesand/or interactions with satellite galaxies. On the other hand, the starformation rate history from a volume-limited sample of open clusters inthe solar neighbourhood appears to be consistent with the overall starformation history obtained from the entire sample. Pure continuous starformation both in the solar neighbourhood and the entire Galactic diskis strongly ruled out. Our results also indicate that, in the Milky Waydisk, about 90% of open clusters are born with N<=150 and the slopein the power-law frequency distribution of their masses is about -2.7when quiescent star formation takes place. If the above results arere-interpreted taking into consideration accretion events onto the MilkyWay, it is found that a fraction of the unusually high number of openclusters with ages older than 0.6 Gyr may have been formed in disruptedsatellites. Problems arising from the selection effects and the ageerrors in the open cluster sample used are discussed in detail.

The age of the oldest Open Clusters
We determine ages of 71 old Open Clusters by a two-step method: we usemain-squence fitting to 10 selected clusters, in order to obtain theirdistances, and derive their ages from comparison with our own isochronesused before for Globular Clusters. We then calibrate the morphologicalage indicator δ(V), which can be obtained for all remainingclusters, in terms of age and metallicity. Particular care is taken toensure consistency in the whole procedure. The resulting Open Clusterages connect well to our previous Globular Cluster results. From theOpen Cluster sample, as well as from the combined sample, questionsregarding the formation process of Galactic components are addressed.The age of the oldest open clusters (NGC 6791 and Be 17) is of the orderof 10 Gyr. We determine a delay by 2.0±1.5 Gyr between the startof the halo and thin disk formation, whereas thin and thick disk startedto form approximately at the same time. We do not find any significantage-metallicity relationship for the open cluster sample. The cumulativeage distribution of the whole open cluster sample shows a moderatelysignificant (˜ 2σ level) departure from the predictions foran exponentially declining dissolution rate with timescale of 2.5 Gyr.The cumulative age distribution does not show any trend withgalactocentric distance, but the clusters with larger height to theGalactic plane have an excess of objects between 2-4 and 6 Gyr withrespect to their counterpart closer to the plane of the Galaxy.

The Old Open Clusters Of The Milky Way
The Galactic open clusters, in particular the oldest members, serve asexcellent probes of the structure and evolution of the Galactic disk.Individual clusters provide excellent tests of stellar and dynamicalevolution. Cluster spatial and age distributions provide insight intothe processes of cluster formation and destruction that have allowedsubstantial numbers of old open clusters to survive.Spectroscopic andphotometric data for the old clusters yield kinematic, abundance, andage information that clarifies the relationship between the old opencluster population and other Galactic populations. New samples of oldopen clusters, which span a large range in distance and age, are used todefine disk abundance gradients and the cluster age-metallicityrelationship, and they point to a complex history of chemical enrichmentand mixing in the disk.

The galactic system of old star clusters: The development of the galactic disk
The vast majority of open clusters persist as clusters for no more thana few hundred million years, but the few which survive for much longerperiods constitute a unique sample for probing the evolution of thegalactic disk. In a charge coupled device (CCD) photometric survey forpossible old open clusters combined with previously publishedphotometry, we have developed a list of 72 clusters of the age of theHyades or older (Phelps (1994). Using our version of parameters based onthe luminosity difference between the main sequence turnoff and thehorizontal branch and on the color difference between the turnoff andthe giant branch, we have calculated a 'Morphological Age Index' (MAI)for the clusters in our list and for a sample of globular clusters. Wefind that the MAI is well correlated with the logarithm of cluster ages,as determined by fitting to theoretical isochrones. We conclude that theindex is a good measure of the relative ages of both globular and openclusters, although uncertainties in the models and residual metallicityeffects prevent the use of the MAI as a definitive calibration of actualcluster ages. The age distribution of the open clusters overlaps that ofthe globular clusters, indicating that the galactic disk began todevelop toward the end of the period of star formation in the galactichalo. The open cluster age distribution can be fit approximately with atwo-component exponential decay function; one component can beidentified as the tail of the dominant population of thin disk openclusters with an age scale factor of 200 Myr, and the other consists oflonger-lived clusters with an age scale of 4 Gyr. The young openclusters are distributed on the galactic plane almost symmetricallyabout the Sun with a scale height perpendicular to the galactic plane of55 pc. The old population consists of rich clusters found only in theouter disk, nore than RGC = 7.5 kpc from the galactic center;this population has a scale height of 375 pc. After accounting for thetwo exponential distributions of cluster ages, there are indications ofan excess of clusters in the age range of 5-7 Gyr; there may have beenlarge bursts of star formation in that period, or perhaps a largerproportion of the clusters forming at that time had advantageous orbitsfor survival. Either circumstance is consistent with the idea that thegalactic disk has been repeatedly disturbed, possibly in collisions orother interactions with external systems, resulting in the occasionalformation of clusters with relatively large velocities perpendicular tothe plane; these are the clusters that have survived until the present.Finally, the repeated accretion of low angular momentum material ontothe disk from the halo or beyond would also explain the observed radialcomposition gradient and the lack of a correlation between open clustermetallicity and age found by Friel & Janes (1993).

Development of the Galactic disk: A search for the oldest open clusters
In an extensive charge coupled devices (CCD) photometric survey ofpotential old open clusters, we have identified a number of systems thatare indeed old; some of them are among the oldest of the open clusters.Using our versions of two well-known morphological age indices, onebased on the luminosity difference between the main sequence turnoff andthe horizontal branch and the other on the color difference between theturnoff and the giant branch, we have ranked the open clusters inapproximate order of age. Our data together with previously publishedphotometry of other old open clusters, yields a catalogue of 72 clustersof the age of Hyades or older with 19 of the clusters as old or olderthan M67 (about 5 Gyr). Among the oldest open clusters are Be 17, Cr261, NGC 6791, Be 54, and AM 2. Be 17 and another old cluster, Lynga 7,are possibly as old as the youngest globulars. The data also suggestthat the formation rate of open clusters may have been higher early inthe history of the disk than at intermediate times since numerousclusters have survived from that time.

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Observation and Astrometry data

Right ascension:19h48m54.00s
Apparent magnitude:99.9

Catalogs and designations:
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NGC 2000.0NGC 6827

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