SCYON Abstract

Received on March 4 2013

The NGC 5253 star cluster system. I. Standard modelling and infrared-excess sources

AuthorsRichard de Grijs (1,2), Peter Anders (1), Erik Zackrisson (3), and Göran Östlin (3)
Affiliation(1) Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Peking University, China
(2) Kyung Hee University, Rep. of Korea
(3) Stockholm University, Sweden
Accepted byMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society


Using high-resolution Hubble Space Telescope data, we reexamine the fundamental properties (ages, masses and extinction values) of the rich star cluster population in the dwarf starburst galaxy NGC 5253. The gain in resolution compared to previous studies is of order a factor of two in both spatial dimensions, while our accessible wavelength range transcends previous studies by incorporation of both near-ultraviolet and near-infrared (IR) passbands. We apply spectral synthesis treatments based on two different simple stellar population model suites to our set of medium-, broad-band and Hα images to gain an improved physical understanding of the IR-excess flux found for a subset of young clusters (30 of 149). With the caveat that our models are based on fully sampled stellar mass functions, the NGC 5253 cluster population is dominated by a significant number of relatively low-mass (Mcl <~ a few 104 M(sun)) objects with ages ranging from a few x106 to a few x107 yr, which is in excellent agreement with the starburst age of the host galaxy. The IR-excess clusters are almost all found in this young age range and have masses of up to a few times 104 M(sun). The IR excess in the relatively low-mass NGC 5253 clusters is most likely caused by a combination of stochastic sampling effects and colour variations due to the presence of either luminous red or pre-main-sequence stars. We also find a small number of intermediate-age (~ 1 Gyr-old), ~105 M(sun) clusters, as well as up to a dozen massive, ~10 Gyr-old globular clusters. Their presence supports the notion that NGC 5253 is a very active galaxy that has undergone multiple episodes of star cluster formation.