Fornax 3D project: Automated detection of planetary nebulae in the centres of early-type galaxies and first results

T. W. Spriggs, M. Sarzi, R. Napiwotzki, P. M. Galán-De Anta, S. Viaene, B. Nedelchev, L. Coccato, E. M. Corsini, P. T. De Zeeuw, J. Falcón-Barroso, D. A. Gadotti, E. Iodice, M. Lyubenova, I. Martín-Navarro, R. M. McDermid, F. Pinna, G. van de Ven, L. Zhu

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    Extragalactic planetary nebulae (PNe) are detectable through relatively strong nebulous [O » III] emission and act as direct probes into the local stellar population. Because they have an apparently universal invariant magnitude cut-off, PNe are also considered to be a remarkable standard candle for distance estimation. Through detecting PNe within the galaxies, we aim to connect the relative abundances of PNe to the properties of their host galaxy stellar population. By removing the stellar background components from FCC 167 and FCC 219, we aim to produce PN luminosity functions (PNLF) of these galaxies, and thereby also estimate the distance modulus to these two systems. Finally, we test the reliability and robustness of our novel detection and analysis method. It detects unresolved point sources by their [O » III] 5007 Å emission within regions that have previously been unexplored. We model the [O » III] emissions in the spatial and spectral dimensions together, as afforded to us by the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer, and we draw on data gathered as part of the Fornax3D survey. For each source, we inspect the properties of the nebular emission lines to remove other sources that might hinder the safe construction of the PNLF, such as supernova remnants and H » II regions. As a further step, we characterise any potential limitations and draw conclusions about the reliability of our modelling approach through a set of simulations. By applying this novel detection and modelling approach to integral field unit observations, we report for the distance estimates and luminosity-specific PNe frequency values for the two galaxies. Furthermore, we include an overview of source contamination, galaxy differences, and possible effects on the PNe populations in the dense stellar environments.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberA62
    Pages (from-to)1-26
    Number of pages16
    JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
    Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2020

    Bibliographical note

    Reproduced with permission from Astronomy & Astrophysics, Copyright ESO 2020. First published in Astronomy and Astrophysics, 637, A62, 2020, published by EDP Sciences. The original publication is available at Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • Galaxies: distances and redshifts
    • Galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD
    • Planetary nebulae: general
    • Techniques: imaging spectroscopy


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