The Central regions of early-type galaxies in nearby clusters

Date

2012-08-28

Authors

Glass, Lisa Anne

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Abstract

Remarkably, the central regions of galaxies are very important in shaping and influencing galaxies as a whole. As such, galaxy cores can be used for classification, to determine which processes may be important in galaxy formation and evolution. Past studies, for example, have found a dichotomy in the inner slopes of early-type galaxy surface brightness profiles. Using deprojections of the galaxies from the ACS Virgo and Fornax Cluster Surveys (ACSVCS/FCS), we show that, in fact, this dichotomy does not exist. Instead, we demonstrate that the brightest early-type galaxies tend to have central light deficits, a trend which gradually transitions to central light excesses – also known as compact stellar nuclei – as we go to fainter galaxies. This effect is quantified, and can be used to determine what evolutionary factors are important as we move along the galaxy luminosity function. The number of stellar nuclei that we observe is, in fact, an unexpected result emerging from the ACSVCS/FCS. Being three times more common than previously thought, they are present in the vast majority of intermediate and low-luminosity galaxies. Conversely, it has been known for over a decade that there is likely a supermassive black hole weighing millions to billions of solar masses at the center of virtually every galaxy of sufficient size. These black holes are known to follow scaling relations with their host galaxies. Using the ACSVCS, along with new kinematical data from long-slit spectroscopy, we measure the dynamical masses of 83 galaxies, and show that supermassive black holes and nuclei appear to fall along the same scaling relation with host mass. Both represent approximately 0.2% of their host’s mass, implying an important link between the two types of central massive objects. Finally, we extract elliptical isophotes and fit parameterized models to the surface brightness profiles of new Hubble Space Telescope imaging of the ACSVCS galaxies, observed in infrared and ultraviolet bandpasses. Taken together, the two surveys represent an unprecedented collection of isophotal and structural parameters of early-type galaxies, and will allow us to learn a great deal about the stellar populations and formation histories of galaxy cores.

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Keywords

astrophysics, astronomy, extragalactic, nearby clusters, early-type galaxies, stellar nuclei, supermassive black holes, galaxy structure, Virgo Cluster, Fornax Cluster, elliptical galaxies, lenticular galaxies, galaxy cores

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