Optical and infrared photometry of globular clusters in NGC1399: Evidence for color-metallicity nonlinearity

John P. Blakeslee, Hyejeon Cho, Eric W. Peng, Laura Ferrarese, Andrés Jordn, André R. Martel

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We combine new Wide Field Camera 3 IR Channel (WFC3/IR) F160W (H 160) imaging data for NGC1399, the central galaxy in the Fornax cluster, with archival F475W (g 475), F606W (V 606), F814W (I 814), and F850LP (z 850) optical data from the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). The purely optical g 475 - I 814, V 606 - I 814, and g 475 - z 850 colors of NGC1399's rich globular cluster (GC) system exhibit clear bimodality, at least for magnitudes I 814 > 21.5. The optical-IR I 814 - H 160 color distribution appears unimodal, and this impression is confirmed by mixture modeling analysis. The V 606 - H 160 colors show marginal evidence for bimodality, consistent with bimodality in V 606 - I 814 and unimodality in I 814 - H 160. If bimodality is imposed for I 814 - H 160 with a double Gaussian model, the preferred blue/red split differs from that for optical colors; these "differing bimodalities" mean that the optical and optical-IR colors cannot both be linearly proportional to metallicity. Consistent with the differing color distributions, the dependence of I 814 - H 160 on g 475 - I 814 for the matched GC sample is significantly nonlinear, with an inflection point near the trough in the g 475 - I 814 color distribution; the result is similar for the I 814 - H 160 dependence on g 475 - z 850 colors taken from the ACS Fornax Cluster Survey. These g 475 - z 850 colors have been calibrated empirically against metallicity; applying this calibration yields a continuous, skewed, but single-peaked metallicity distribution. Taken together, these results indicate that nonlinear color-metallicity relations play an important role in shaping the observed bimodal distributions of optical colors in extragalactic GC systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number88
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 10 Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD
  • galaxies: individual (NGC 1399)
  • galaxies: star clusters: general
  • globular clusters: general


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