Journal Article

Globular cluster systems in nearby dwarf galaxies – I. <i>HST</i>/ACS observations and dynamical properties of globular clusters at low environmental density

Iskren Y. Georgiev, Thomas H. Puzia, Michael Hilker and Paul Goudfrooij

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 392, issue 2, pages 879-893
Published in print January 2009 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online December 2008 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2008.14104.x
Globular cluster systems in nearby dwarf galaxies – I. HST/ACS observations and dynamical properties of globular clusters at low environmental density

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We investigate the old globular cluster (GC) population of 68 faint (MV > −16 mag) dwarf galaxies located in the halo regions of nearby (≲12 Mpc) loose galaxy groups and in the field environment based on archival Hubble Space Telescope (HST)/Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) images in F606W and F814W filters. The combined colour distribution of 175 GC candidates peaks at (VI) = 0.96 ± 0.07 mag and the GC luminosity function turnover for the entire sample is found at MV,TO=−7.6 ± 0.11 mag, similar to the old metal-poor Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) GC population. Our data reveal a tentative trend of MV,TO becoming fainter from late- to early-type galaxies. The luminosity and colour distributions of GCs in dIrrs show a lack of faint blue GCs (bGCs). Our analysis reveals that this might reflect a relatively younger GC system than typically found in luminous early-type galaxies. If verified by spectroscopy, this would suggest a later formation epoch of the first metal-poor star clusters in dwarf galaxies. We find several bright (massive) GCs which reside in the nuclear regions of their host galaxies. These nuclear clusters have similar luminosities and structural parameters as the peculiar Galactic clusters suspected of being the remnant nuclei of accreted dwarf galaxies, such as M54 and ωCen. Except for these nuclear clusters, the distribution of GCs in dIrrs in the half-light radius versus cluster mass plane is very similar to that of Galactic young halo clusters, which suggests comparable formation and dynamical evolution histories. A comparison with theoretical models of cluster disruption indicates that GCs in low-mass galaxies evolve dynamically as self-gravitating systems in a benign tidal environment.

Keywords: galaxies: dwarf; galaxies: irregular; galaxies: star clusters

Journal Article.  9247 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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