Wednesday, July 31, 2013

1307.7707 (Jay Strader et al.)

The Densest Galaxy    [PDF]

Jay Strader, Anil Seth, Duncan Forbes, Giuseppina Fabbiano, Aaron Romanowsky, Jean Brodie, Charlie Conroy, Nelson Caldwell, Vincenzo Pota, Christopher Usher, Jacob Arnold
We report the discovery of a remarkable ultra-compact dwarf galaxy around the massive Virgo elliptical galaxy NGC 4649 (M60), which we term M60-UCD1. With a dynamical mass of 2.0 x 10^8 M_sun but a half-light radius of only ~ 24 pc, M60-UCD1 is more massive than any ultra-compact dwarfs of comparable size, and is arguably the densest galaxy known in the local universe. It has a two-component structure well-fit by a sum of Sersic functions, with an elliptical, compact (r_h=14 pc; n ~ 3.3) inner component and a round, exponential, extended (r_h=49 pc) outer component. Chandra data reveal a variable central X-ray source with L_X ~ 10^38 erg/s that could be an active galactic nucleus associated with a massive black hole or a low-mass X-ray binary. Analysis of optical spectroscopy shows the object to be old (~> 10 Gyr) and of solar metallicity, with elevated [Mg/Fe] and strongly enhanced [N/Fe] that indicates light element self-enrichment; such self-enrichment may be generically present in dense stellar systems. The velocity dispersion (~ 70 km/s) and resulting dynamical mass-to-light ratio (M/L_V=4.9 +/- 0.7) are consistent with---but slightly higher than---expectations for an old, metal-rich stellar population with a Kroupa initial mass function. The presence of a massive black hole or a mild increase in low-mass stars or stellar remnants is therefore also consistent with this M/L_V. The stellar density of the galaxy is so high that no dynamical signature of dark matter is expected. However, the properties of M60-UCD1 suggest an origin in the tidal stripping of a nucleated galaxy with M_B ~ -18 to -19.
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