The relative ages of the Globular cluster subpopulations in M87

Andrés Jordán, Patrick Côté, Michael J. West, Ronald O. Marzke

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Relative ages for the globular cluster (GC) subpopulations in the Virgo giant elliptical galaxy M87 (NGC 4486) have been determined from Strömgren photometry obtained with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 on board the Hubble Space Telescope. Using a variety of population synthesis models, and assuming the GC mass at the turnover of the luminosity function is the same for both subpopulations, differential ages have been determined from the observed magnitudes at the turnover of the globular cluster luminosity function and from the mean color of each subpopulation. We measure an age difference between the two subpopulations of 0.2 ± 1.5 (systematic) ± 2 (random) Gyr, in the sense that the blue GCs are formally older. Thus, to within our measurement errors, the two subpopulations are found to be coeval. Combined with previous spectroscopic age determinations for M87 GCs, our results favor a picture in which the GCs associated with this galaxy are formed at high redshift and within a period of a few gigayears.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L113-L116
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 II
StatePublished - 10 Sep 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Galaxies: formation
  • Galaxies: individual (M87)
  • Galaxies: star clusters


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