The origin and properties of intracluster stars in a rich cluster Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • We use a multi million particle N-body + SPH simulation to follow the formation of a rich galaxy cluster in a Lambda+CDM cosmology, with the goal of understanding the origin and properties of intracluster stars. The simulation includes gas cooling, star formation, the effects of a uniform UVB and feedback from supernovae. Halos that host galaxies as faint as M_R = -19.0 are resolved by this simulation, which includes 85% of the total galaxy luminosity in a rich cluster. We find that the accumulation of intracluster light (ICL) is an ongoing process, linked to infall and stripping events. The unbound star fraction increases with time and is 20% at z = 0, consistent with observations of galaxy clusters. The surface brightness profile of the cD shows an excess compared to a de Vaucouleur profile near 200 kpc, which is also consistent with observations. Both massive and small galaxies contribute substantially to the formation of the ICL, with stars stripped preferentially from the outer parts of their stellar distributions. Simulated observations of planetary nebulae (PNe) show significant substructure in velocity space. Despite this, individual intracluster PNe might be useful mass tracers if more than 5 fields at a range of radii have measured line-of-sight velocities, where an accurate mass calculation depends more on the number of fields than the number of PNe measured per field. However, the orbits of IC stars are more anisotropic than those of galaxies or dark matter, which leads to a systematic underestimate of cluster mass relative to that calculated with galaxies, if not accounted for in dynamical models. Overall, the properties of ICL formed in a hierarchical scenario are in good agreement with current observations. (Abridged)

publication date

  • November 2004