Journal Article

In search of massive single-population globular clusters

Vittoria Caloi and Francesca D’Antona

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 417, issue 1, pages 228-237
Published in print October 2011 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online October 2011 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
In search of massive single-population globular clusters

More Like This

Show all results sharing this subject:

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics


Show Summary Details


The vast majority of globular clusters so far examined shows the chemical signatures of hosting (at least) two stellar populations. According to recent ideas, this feature requires a two-step process, in which the nuclearly processed matter from a ‘first generation’ (FG) of stars gives birth to a ‘second generation’ (SG), bearing the fingerprint of a fully carbon–nitrogen–oxygen (CNO) cycled matter. Since, as observed, the present population of most globular clusters is made up largely of SG stars, a substantial fraction of the FG (≳90 per cent) must be lost. Nevertheless, two types of clusters dominated by a simple stellar population (FG clusters) should exist: clusters initially too small to be able to retain a cooling flow and form a second generation (FG-only clusters) and massive clusters that could retain the CNO-processed ejecta and form an SG, but were unable to lose a significant fraction of their FG (mainly-FG clusters). Identification of mainly-FG clusters may provide an estimate of the fraction of the initial mass involved in the formation of the SG. We attempt a first classification of FG clusters, based on the morphology of their horizontal branches (HBs), as displayed in the published catalogues of photometric data for 106 clusters. We select, as FG candidates, the clusters in which the HB can be reproduced by the evolution of an almost unique mass. We find that less than 20 per cent of clusters with [Fe/H] < −0.8 appear to be FG, but only ∼10 per cent probably had a mass sufficient to form at all an SG. This small percentage confirms on a wider data base the spectroscopic result that the SG is a dominant constituent of today’s clusters, suggesting that its formation is an ingredient necessary for the survival of globular clusters during their dynamical evolution in the Galactic tidal field. In more detail we show that Pal 3 turns out to be a good example of FG-only cluster. Instead, HB simulations and space distribution of its components indicate that M53 is a ‘mainly-FG’ cluster that evolved in dynamic isolation and developed a small SG in its core thanks to its large mass. Mainly-FG candidates may also be NGC 5634, NGC 5694 and NGC 6101. In contrast, NGC 2419 contains >30 per cent of SG stars, and its present dynamical status bears less information on its formation process than the analysis of the chemical abundances of its stars and of its HB morphology.

Keywords: stars: abundances; stars: horizontal branch; globular clusters: general; globular clusters: individual: NGC 2419; globular clusters: individual: M53; globular clusters: individual: Pal 3

Journal Article.  7907 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.