GLOBULAR CLUSTER SYSTEMS IN GIANT ELLIPTICALS: THE MASS/METALLICITY RELATION Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Hubble Space Telescope ACS/WFC data in (B,I) are used to investigate the globular cluster populations around 6 gE galaxies ~40 Mpc distant. The total comprises a sample of ~8000 high-probability globular clusters. PSF-convolved King-model profiles are used to measure their individual total magnitudes, colors, and effective radii. The classic bimodal form of the GC color-magnitude distribution shows up unambiguously in all the galaxies, allowing an accurate definition of the mean colors along each of the two sequences as a function of magnitude (the mass/metallicity relation or MMR). The blue, metal-poor cluster sequence shows a clearly defined but nonlinear MMR, changing smoothly from a near-vertical sequence at low luminosity to an increasingly redward slope at higher luminosity, while the red, metal-rich sequence is nearly vertical at all luminosities. All the observed features of the present data agree with the interpretation that the MMR is created primarily by GC self-enrichment, along the lines of the quantitative model of Bailin and Harris (2009): The "threshold" mass at which this effect should become noticeable is near 1 million Solar masses, which is closely consistent with the transition region that is seen in the data. Correlation of the median half-light radii of the GCs with other parameters shows that the metal-poor clusters are consistently 17% larger than those of the metal-rich clusters, at all galactocentric distances and luminosities. At the same time, cluster size scales with halo location as r_h ~ R_gc^0.11, indicating that both metallicity and the external tidal environment play roles in determining the scale size of a given cluster. Lastly, both the red and blue GC components show metallicity gradients with galactocentric distance, following Z ~ R_gc^-0.1.

publication date

  • July 1, 2009