We study the azimuthal distribution of globular clusters (GCs) in early-type galaxies and compare them to their host galaxies using data from the ACS Virgo Cluster Survey. We find that in host galaxies with visible elongation (ε > 0.2) and intermediate to high luminosities (Mz < -19), the GCs are preferentially aligned along the major axis of the stellar light. The red (metal-rich) GC subpopulations show strong alignment with the major axis of the host galaxy, which supports the notion that these GCs are associated with metal-rich field stars. The metal-rich GCs in lenticular galaxies show signs of being more strongly associated with disks rather than bulges. Surprisingly, we also find that the blue (metal-poor) GCs can also show the same correlation. If the metal-poor GCs are part of the early formation of the halo and built up through mergers, then our results support a picture where halo formation and merging occur anisotropically, and that the present-day major axis is an indicator of the preferred merging axis.
- galaxies: dwarf
- galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD
- galaxies: evolution
- galaxies: star clusters: General
- globular clusters: general