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Astrophysics

Title: Masses of star clusters in the nuclei of bulge-less spiral galaxies

Abstract: In the last decade star clusters have been found in the centers of spiral galaxies across all Hubble types. We here present a spectroscopic study of the exceptionally bright (10^6 - 10^8 Lsun) but compact (Re ~ 5 pc) nuclear star clusters in very late type spirals with UVES at the VLT. We find the velocity dispersions of the nine clusters in our sample to range from 13 to 34 km/s. Using photometric data from the HST/WFPC2 and spherically symmetric dynamical models we determine masses between 8*10^5 and 6*10^7 Msun. The mass to light ratios range from 0.2 to 1.5 in the I band. This indicates a young mean age for most clusters, in agreement with previous studies. Given their high masses and small sizes we find that nuclear clusters are among the objects with the highest mean surface density known (up to 10^5 Msun pc^-2). From their dynamical properties we infer that, rather than small bulges, the closest structural kin of nuclear clusters appear to be massive compact star clusters. This includes such different objects as globular clusters, "super star clusters", ultra compact dwarf galaxies and the nuclei of dwarf elliptical galaxies. It is a challenge to explain why, despite the wildly different current environments, all different types of massive star clusters share very similar and structural properties. A possible explanation links UCDs and massive globular clusters to nuclear star clusters through stripping of nucleated dwarf galaxies in a merger event. The extreme properties of this type of clusters would then be a consequence of their location in the centers of their respective host galaxies.
Comments: 26 pages, 4 figures, submitted to ApJ
Subjects: Astrophysics (astro-ph)
Journal reference: Astrophys.J.618:237-246,2004; Erratum-ibid.635:741,2005
DOI: 10.1086/425977
Cite as: arXiv:astro-ph/0409216
  (or arXiv:astro-ph/0409216v1 for this version)

Submission history

From: Carl Jakob Walcher [view email]
[v1] Thu, 9 Sep 2004 17:19:58 GMT (124kb)