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Session 80 - Stellar Population in Cluster Galaxies.
Display session, Wednesday, January 15
It has been suspected for nearly 50 years that clusters of galaxies should contain a population of intergalactic stars, ripped from galaxies during interactions or by the mean gravitational shear of the cluster. We report here the direct detection of isolated red giant branch tip and asymptotic giant branch stars in the Virgo cluster. Hubble Space Telescope (HST) images of a blank field 50 arcminutes East of the center of the dominant Virgo elliptical, M 87, yield \approx 600 stars in a 5.33 square arcminute field. While detailed studies of the population will require further observations, the available data already provides interesting constraints on the fraction of the total stellar mass of the cluster present in the diffuse component, and provides a test of the distance to the Virgo Cluster that is free from uncertainties in membership of any individual galaxy.
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