Discovery of ultracompact dwarf galaxies in the virgo cluster

J. B. Jones*, M. J. Drinkwater, R. Jurek, S. Phillipps, M. D. Gregg, K. Bekki, W. J. Couch, A. Karick, Q. A. Parker, R. M. Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We have discovered nine ultracompact dwarf galaxies (UCDs) in the Virgo Cluster, extending samples of these objects outside the Fornax Cluster. Using the Two Degree Field (2dF) multifiber spectrograph on the Anglo-Australian Telescope, the new Virgo members were found among 1500 color-selected, starlike targets with 16.0 < b j < 20.2 in a 2° diameter field centered on M87 (NGC 4486). The newly found UCDs are comparable to the UCDs in the Fornax Cluster, with sizes ≲100 pc, -12.9 < Mg < -10.7, and exhibiting red absorption-line spectra, indicative of an older stellar population. The properties of these objects remain consistent with the tidal threshing model for the origin of UCDs from the surviving nuclei of nucleated dwarf elliptical galaxies disrupted in the cluster core but can also be explained as objects that were formed by mergers of star clusters created in galaxy interactions. The discovery that UCDs exist in Virgo shows that this galaxy type is probably a ubiquitous phenomenon in clusters of galaxies; coupled with their possible origin by tidal threshing, the UCD population is a potential indicator and probe of the formation history of a given cluster. We also describe one additional bright UCD with M B = -12.0 in the core of the Fornax Cluster. We find no further UCDs in our Fornax Cluster Spectroscopic Survey down to b j = 19.5 in two additional 2dF fields extending as far as 3° from the center of the cluster. All six Fornax bright UCDs identified with 2dF lie within 0°.5 (projected distance of 170 kpc) of the central elliptical galaxy NGC 1399.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-324
Number of pages13
JournalAstronomical Journal
Volume131
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2006

Keywords

  • Clusters
  • Distances and redshifts - Galaxies
  • Dwarf - Galaxies
  • Galaxies
  • Individual (Fornax, Virgo) - Galaxies
  • Peculiar - Surveys

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