THE GLOBULAR CLUSTER SYSTEM IN M87: A WIDE-FIELD STUDY WITH CFHT/MEGACAM Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • CFHT Megacam data in (g',r',i') are used to obtain deep, wide-field photometry of the globular cluster system (GCS) around M87. A total of 6200 GCs brighter than M_I = -8.5 are included in the study, essentially containing almost the entire bright half of the total GC population in the galaxy. The classic bimodal metal-poor and metal-rich sequences of GCs show up clearly; while the spatial distribution of the GCs can be traced detectably outward to more than 100 kpc, the blue, metal-poor subpopulation is very much more spatially extended than the red subpopulation. Both the red and blue GC subsystems have radial metallicity gradients, where mean heavy-element abundance scales with projected galactocentric distance as Z ~ R^{-0.12} (blue) and R^{-0.17} (red). The blue sequence exhibits a strongly significant mass/metallicity relation (MMR) in which the mean metallicity gradually increases with cluster luminosity as Z ~ L^{0.25 \pm 0.05} for the luminosity range M_I < -10. However, this relation is also clearly nonlinear, becoming vertical at fainter levels. The MMR can be understood as the result of self-enrichment within the most massive metal-poor GCs during their formation. In giant elliptical galaxies, the red GCs are likely to represent a broad composite population formed during several major starbursts. If so, the red sequence might display a population-based MMR that could in principle be either positive or negative.

publication date

  • September 20, 2009