Journal Article

The near-IR luminosity function and bimodal surface brightness distributions of Virgo cluster galaxies

Michael McDonald, Stéphane Courteau and R. Brent Tully

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 394, issue 4, pages 2022-2042
Published in print April 2009 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online April 2009 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2009.14442.x
The near-IR luminosity function and bimodal surface brightness distributions of Virgo cluster galaxies

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We have acquired deep, H-band imaging for a sample of 286 Virgo cluster galaxies with BT≤ 16 mag and extracted surface photometry from optical g, r, i, z Sloan Digital Sky Survey images of 742 Virgo Cluster Catalogue galaxies, including those with H-band images. We confirm the detection of a dip in the luminosity function indicative of a discontinuity in the cluster galaxy population; the dip is more pronounced at redder wavelengths. We find, in agreement with earlier works of Tully and Verheijen and ours for Ursa Major cluster galaxies, a clear dichotomy between high and low surface brightness (HSB and LSB) galaxy discs. The difference between the low and high brightness peaks of Virgo disc galaxies is ∼2 H-mag arcsec−2, significantly larger than any systematic errors. The high surface brightness disc galaxies have two distinct classes of high and low concentration bulges, while LSB galaxies have only low concentration bulges. Early-type galaxies exhibit a similar structural bimodality though offset from that of the spiral galaxies towards higher surface brightnesses. Both the early- and late-type structural bimodalities are uncorrelated with colour or any other structural parameter except, possibly, circular velocity. Random realizations of realistic surface brightness profiles suggest that a bimodal distribution of effective surface brightness is unexpected based on normal distributions of bulge and disc parameters. Rather, the structural bimodality may be linked to dynamic properties of galaxies. Low angular momentum systems may collapse to form dynamically important discs with high surface brightness, while high angular momentum systems would end up as low surface brightness galaxies dominated by the dark halo at all radii. The confirmation of structural bimodality for gas-rich and gas-poor galaxies in the high-density Virgo cluster as well as the low-density UMa cluster suggests that this phenomenon is independent of environment.

Keywords: galaxies: clusters: general; galaxies: evolution; galaxies: formation; galaxies: luminosity function, mass function; galaxies: statistics; galaxies: structure

Journal Article.  14591 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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