Star cluster versus field star formation in the nucleus of the prototype starburst galaxy M 82

S. Barker*, R. De Grijs, M. Cerviño

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


We analyse high-resolution Hubble Space Telescope/Advanced Camera for Surveys imaging of the nuclear starburst region of M 82, obtained as part of the Hubble Heritage mosaic made of this galaxy, in four filters (Johnson-Cousins equivalent , and broad bands, and an Hα narrow-band filter), as well as subsequently acquired -band images. We find a complex system of ∼ 150 star clusters in the inner few 100 pc of the galaxy. We do not find any conclusive evidence of a cluster-formation epoch associated with the most recent starburst event, believed to have occurred about 4-6 Myr ago. This apparent evidence of decoupling between cluster and field-star formation is consistent with the view that star cluster formation requires special conditions. However, we strongly caution, and provide compelling evidence, that the "standard" simple stellar population analysis method we have used significantly underestimates the true uncertainties in the derived ages due to stochasticity in the stellar initial mass function and the corresponding sampling effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)711-720
Number of pages10
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • galaxies: individual: M 82
  • galaxies: interactions
  • galaxies: photometry
  • galaxies: star clusters
  • galaxies: starburst
  • galaxies: stellar content


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