Cluster 77 in NGC 4449: The Nucleus of a Satellite Galaxy Being Transformed into a Globular Cluster?
We report the discovery in our Hubble Space Telescope Advanced Camera for Surveys B, V, and I images of NGC 4449 of a globular cluster (GC) which appears associated with two tails of blue stars. The cluster is massive (M ~ 1.7 × 106 M ⊙) and highly flattened (epsilon ~ 0.24). From the color-magnitude diagrams of the resolved stars we infer active star formation in the tails over the past ~200 Myr. In a diagram of mean projected mass density inside re versus total mass the cluster lies at the upper end of the GC distribution, where galaxy nuclei are. The northwest tail is associated with a concentration of H I and infrared (dust/polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) emission which appears as part of a much longer stream wrapping around the galaxy. These properties suggest that the cluster may be the nucleus of a former gas-rich satellite galaxy undergoing tidal disruption by NGC 4449. If so, the cluster is seen in an earlier phase compared to other suggested nuclei of disrupted galaxies such as ω Cen (Milky Way) and G1 (M31).Based on observations with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope obtained at the Space Telescope Science Institute which is operated by AURA, Inc., for NASA under contract NAS5-26555.
The Astrophysical Journal
- Pub Date:
- January 2012
- galaxies: clusters: individual: NGC 4449:CL 77;
- galaxies: dwarf;
- galaxies: individual: NGC 4449;
- galaxies: starburst;
- Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics
- 8 pages, 5 figures, ApJ Letters, Vol. 745, January 2012, in press