How well do we know the age and mass distributions of the star cluster system in the Large Magellanic Cloud?

Richard de Grijs*, Peter Anders

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

86 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) star cluster system offers the unique opportunity to independently check the accuracy of age (and the corresponding mass) determinations based on a number of complementary techniques. Using our sophisticated tool for star cluster analysis based on broad-band spectral energy distributions (SEDs), 'AnalySED', we re-analyse the Hunter et al. LMC cluster photometry. Our main aim is to set the tightest limits yet on the accuracy of absolute age determinations based on broad-band SEDs, and therefore on the usefulness of such an approach. Our broad-band SED fits yield reliable ages, with statistical absolute uncertainties within overall. The systematic differences we find with respect to previous age determinations are caused by conversions of the observational photometry to a different filter system, thus leading to systematically inaccurate results. The LMC's cluster formation rate (CFR) has been roughly constant outside of the well-known age gap between ∼3 and 13 Gyr, when the CFR was a factor of ∼5 lower. Using a simple approach to derive the characteristic cluster disruption time-scale, we find that log(tdis4 /yr) = 9.9 ± 0.1, where tdis = tdis4 (Mcl/104M)0.62. . This long characteristic disruption time-scale implies that we are observing the initial cluster mass function (CMF). We conclude that while the older cluster (sub)samples show CMF slopes that are fully consistent with the slopes generally observed in young star cluster systems, the youngest mass and luminosity-limited LMC cluster subsets show shallower slopes (at least below masses of a few ×103M), which is contrary to dynamical expectations. This may imply that the initial CMF slope of the LMC cluster system as a whole is not well represented by a power law, although we cannot disentangle the unbound from the bound clusters at the youngest ages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-307
Number of pages13
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Volume366
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2006
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • methods: data analysis
  • Magellanic Clouds
  • galaxies: star clusters
  • galaxies: stellar content

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