AAS 197, January 2001
Session 107. Galaxy Clusters and Large Scale Structure II
Display, Thursday, January 11, 2001, 9:30-4:00pm, Exhibit Hall

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[107.07] Models for the Magnitude-Distribution of Brightest Cluster Galaxies

J. P. Bernstein (University of Michigan, Dept. of Astronomy), S. P. Bhavsar (Universtiy of Kentucky, Dept. of Physics & Astronomy)

The brightest, or first-ranked, galaxies (BCGs) in rich clusters show a very small dispersion in luminosity, making them excellent standard candles. This small dispersion has raised questions about the nature of BCGs. Are they simply the extremes of normal galaxies formed via a stochastic process, or do they belong to a special class of atypical objects? Arguments have been proposed on both sides of the debate. Bhavsar (1989) suggested that the distribution in magnitudes can only be explained by a two-population model. Thus, a new controversy has arisen. Do first-ranked galaxies consist of one or two populations of objects? We examine an older and newer data set and present our results. Two-population models do better than do one-population models. A simple model where a random boost in the magnitude of a fraction of bright, normal galaxies forms a class of atypical galaxies best describes the observed distribution of BCG magnitudes. Moreover, the parameters that describe the model and the parameters of the boost have a strong physical basis.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: joe@astro.lsa.umich.edu

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