Hubble space telescope ACS wide-field photometry of the Sombrero galaxy globular cluster system

Lee R. Spitler*, Søren S. Larsen, J. A Y Strader, Jean P. Brodie, Duncan A. Forbes, Michael A. Beasley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Citations (Scopus)


A detailed imaging analysis of the globular cluster (GC) system of the Sombrero galaxy (NGC 4594) has been accomplished using a six-image mosaic from the Hubble Space Telescope Advanced Camera for Surveys. The quality of the data is such that contamination by foreground stars and background galaxies is negligible for all but the faintest 5% of the GC luminosity function. This enables the study of an effectively pure sample of 659 GCs until ∼2 mag fainter than the turnover magnitude, which occurs at M V TOM = -7.60 ± 0.06 for an assumed m - M = 29.77. Two GC metallicity subpopulations are easily distinguishable, with the metal-poor subpopulation exhibiting a smaller intrinsic dispersion in color compared to the metal-rich subpopulation. There are three new discoveries. (1) A metal-poor GC color-magnitude trend has been observed. (2) The fact that the metal-rich GCs are ∼ 17% smaller than the metal-poor ones for small projected galactocentric radii (less than ∼2′) has been confirmed. However, the median half-light radii of the two subpopulations become identical at ∼3′ from the center. This is most easily explained if the size difference is the result of projection effects. (3) The brightest (M V < -9.0) members of the GC system show a size-magnitude upturn, where the average GC size increases with increasing luminosity. Evidence is presented that supports an intrinsic origin for this feature rather than being a result of accreted dwarf elliptical nuclei. In addition, the metal-rich GCs show a shallower positive size-magnitude trend, similar to what is found in previous studies of young star clusters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1593-1609
Number of pages17
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2006
Externally publishedYes


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