The Globular Cluster Systems in the Coma Ellipticals. II. Metallicity Distribution and Radial Structure in NGC 4874 and Implications for Galaxy Formation Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Deep HST/WFPC2 (V,I) photometry is used to investigate the globular cluster system (GCS) in NGC 4874, the central cD galaxy of the Coma cluster. The luminosity function of the clusters displays its normal Gaussian-like shape and turnover level. Other features of the system are surprising: the GCS is (a) spatially extended, with core radius r_c = 22 kpc, (b) entirely metal-poor (a narrow, unimodal metallicity distribution with mean [Fe/H] = -1.5), and (c) modestly populated, with specific frequency S_N = 3.7 +- 0.5. We suggest on the basis of some simple models that as much as half of this galaxy might have accreted from low-mass satellites, but no single one of the three classic modes of galaxy formation (accretion, disk mergers, in situ formation) can supply a fully satisfactory formation picture. Even when they are used in combination, strong challenges to these models remain. The principal anomaly in this GCS is essentially the complete lack of metal-rich clusters. If these were present in normal (M87-like) numbers in addition to the metal-poor ones that are already there, then the GCS in total would more closely resemble what we see in many other giant E galaxies.

publication date

  • April 10, 2000