The star cluster-field star connection in nearby spiral galaxies. I. Data analysis techniques and application to NGC 4395
Context. It is generally assumed that a large fraction of stars are initially born in clusters. However, a large fraction of these disrupt on short timescales and the stars end up belonging to the field. Understanding this process is of paramount importance if we wish to constrain the star formation histories of external galaxies using star clusters.
Aims: We attempt to understand the relation between field stars and star clusters by simultaneously studying both in a number of nearby galaxies.
Methods: As a pilot study, we present results for the late-type spiral NGC 4395 using HST/ACS and HST/WFPC2 images. Different detection criteria were used to distinguish point sources (star candidates) and extended objects (star cluster candidates). Using a synthetic CMD method, we estimated the star formation history. Using simple stellar population model fitting, we calculated the mass and age of the cluster candidates.
Results: The field star formation rate appears to have been roughly constant, or to have possibly increased by up to about a factor of two, for ages younger than ~300 Myr within the fields covered by our data. Our data do not allow us to constrain the star formation histories at older ages. We identify a small number of clusters in both fields. Neither massive (>105 M_⊙) clusters nor clusters with ages ≥1 Gyr were found in the galaxy and we found few clusters older than 100 Myr.
Conclusions: Based on our direct comparison of field stars and clusters in NGC 4395, we estimate the ratio of star formation rate in clusters that survive for 107 to 108 years to the total star formation to be Γ ~ 0.03. We suggest that this relatively low Γ value is caused by the low star formation rate of NGC 4395.
Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Pub Date:
- June 2010
- galaxies: individual: NGC 4395;
- galaxies: star clusters: general;
- galaxies: star formation;
- galaxies: photometry;
- Astrophysics - Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics
- 16 pages, 20 figures, accepted for publication in A&