Simultaneous modelling of the stellar halo and globular cluster system of NGC 5128 Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • An important test for models of galaxy formation lies in the metallicity distribution functions (MDFs) of spheroid stars and their globular clusters (GCs).We have compared the MDFs obtained from spectroscopy of the GCs and the star-by-star photometry of red giants in the nearby elliptical NGC 5128, with the predictions of a semi-analytic galaxy formation model. We have selected model ellipticals comparable in luminosity and environment to NGC 5128, and derived their MDFs. A direct comparison between models and data shows that the MDFs are qualitatively similar, both have stellar components which are predominantly metal-rich (0.8Z), with a small fraction of metal-poor stars extending down to 0.002Z. The model MDFs show only small variations, whether they are brightest cluster galaxies or low luminosity group ellipticals. Our comparison also reveals that these model MDFs harbour a greater fraction of stars above solar metallicity than the observations, producing generally more metal-rich (by 0.1 dex) MDFs. One possibility is that the outer-bulge observations are missing some of the highest metallicity stars. We find good agreement between the model and observed GC MDFs, provided that the metal-poor GC formation is halted early in the model. Under this proviso, both the models and data are bimodal with peaks at 0.1Z and Z, and cover similar metallicity ranges. This broad agreement for the stars and GCs suggests that the bulk of the stellar population in NGC 5128 may have been built up in a hierarchical fashion, involving both quiescent and merger-induced star formation. The existence of age structure amongst the metal-rich GCs needs to be tested against high-quality data for this galaxy.

publication date

  • March 21, 2003