AAS Meeting #194 - Chicago, Illinois, May/June 1999
Session 7. Spirals and Ellipticals
Display, Monday, May 31, 1999, 9:20am-6:30pm, Southwest Exhibit Hall

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[7.02] Mass and age of the nuclear cluster in IC342

T. Boeker (STScI/ESA), R.P. van der Marel (STScI), W.D. Vacca (Univ. of Hawaii)

We have used the NASA Infra-Red Telescope Facility (IRTF) to observe the nuclear stellar cluster in the nearby, face-on, giant Scd spiral IC 342. From high resolution (R = 21500) spectra at the CO (2-0) bandhead at 2.3 micron we derive a line-of-sight stellar velocity dispersion of 33 ±3 km/s.

To interpret this observation we construct dynamical models based on the Jeans equation for a spherical system. The light distribution of the cluster is modeled using an isophotal analysis of an HST V-band image from the HST Data Archive, combined with new ground-based K-band imaging. Under the assumption of an isotropic velocity distribution, the observed kinematics imply a K-band mass-to-light ratio M/L_K = 0.05, and a cluster mass M ~ 6 million solar masses. We model the mass-to-light ratio with the `starburst99' stellar population synthesis models of Leitherer and collaborators, and infer a best-fitting cluster age in the range 63-630 Myears. Although this result depends somewhat on a number of uncertainties in the modeling (e.g., the assumed extinction along the line-of-sight towards the nucleus, the IMF of the stellar population model, and the velocity dispersion anisotropy of the cluster), none of these can be plausibly modified to yield a significantly larger age. We will discuss the implications of this result on scenarios of cluster formation in the nuclei of spiral galaxies.

As a byproduct of our analysis, we infer that IC 342 cannot have any central black hole more massive than 0.5 million solar masses. This is ~ 6 times less massive than the black hole inferred to exist in our Galaxy, consistent with the accumulating evidence that galaxies with less massive bulges harbor less massive black holes.

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