Journal Article

Dynamical versus stellar masses of ultracompact dwarf galaxies in the Fornax cluster*

Igor V. Chilingarian, Steffen Mieske, Michael Hilker and Leopoldo Infante

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 412, issue 3, pages 1627-1638
Published in print April 2011 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online April 2011 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Dynamical versus stellar masses of ultracompact dwarf galaxies in the Fornax cluster*

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The origin of ultracompact dwarf (UCD) galaxies, compact extragalactic stellar systems, is still a puzzle for present galaxy formation models. We present the comprehensive analysis of high-resolution multi-object spectroscopic data for a sample of 24 Fornax cluster UCDs obtained with VLT with Fibre Large Array Multi Element Spectrograph (FLAMES). It comprises previously published data for 19 objects which we re-analysed, including 13 with available Hubble Space Telescope (HST) photometric data. Using Virtual Observatory technologies we found archival HST images for two more UCDs and then determined their structural properties. For all objects we derived internal velocity dispersions, stellar population parameters and stellar mass-to-light ratios (M/L)* by fitting individual simple stellar population (SSP) synthetic spectra convolved with a Gaussian against the observed spectra using the NBursts full spectral fitting technique. For 14 objects we estimated dynamical masses suggesting no dark matter (DM) in 12 of them and no more than 40 per cent DM mass fraction in the remaining two, in contrast to findings for several UCDs in the Virgo cluster. Some Fornax UCDs even have too high values of (M/L)* estimated using the Kroupa stellar initial mass function (IMF) resulting in negative formally computed DM mass fractions. The objects with too high (M/L)* ratios compared to the dynamical ones have relatively short dynamical relaxation time-scales, close to the Hubble time or below. We therefore suggest that their lower dynamical ratios (M/L)dyn are caused by low-mass star depletion due to dynamical evolution. Overall, the observed UCD characteristics suggest at least two formation channels: tidal threshing of nucleated dwarf galaxies for massive UCDs (≃108 M), and a classical scenario of red globular cluster formation for lower-mass UCDs (≲107 M).

Keywords: galaxies: dwarf; galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD; galaxies: evolution; galaxies: kinematics and dynamics; galaxies: stellar content

Journal Article.  8624 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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