Understanding the central kinematics of globular clusters with simulated integrated-light IFU observations

Bianchini, Paolo, Norris, Mark A. orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7001-805X, van de Ven, Glenn and Schinnerer, Eva (2015) Understanding the central kinematics of globular clusters with simulated integrated-light IFU observations. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 453 . pp. 365-376. ISSN 0035-8711

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/mnras/stv1651


The detection of intermediate mass black holes in the centres of globular clusters is highly controversial, as complementary observational methods often deliver significantly different results. In order to understand these discrepancies, we develop a
procedure to simulate integral field unit (IFU) observations of globular clusters: Simulating IFU Star Cluster Observations (SISCO). The input of our software are realistic dynamical models of globular clusters that are then converted in a spectral data cube. We apply SISCO to Monte Carlo cluster simulations from Downing et al. (2010), with a realistic number of stars and concentrations. Using independent realisations of a given simulation we are able to quantify the stochasticity intrinsic to the problem of observing a partially resolved stellar population with integrated-light spectroscopy. We show that the luminosity-weighted IFU observations can be strongly biased by the presence of a few bright stars that introduce a scatter in the velocity dispersion measurements up to ~40% around the expected value, preventing any sound assessment of the central kinematic and a sensible interpretation of the presence/absence of an intermediate mass black hole. Moreover, we illustrate that, in our mock IFU observations, the average kinematic tracer has a mass of ~0.75 M�sun, only slightly lower than the mass of the typical stars examined in studies of resolved line-of-sight velocities of giant stars. Finally, in order to recover unbiased kinematic measurements we test different masking techniques that allow us to remove the spaxels dominated by bright stars, bringing the scatter down to a level of only a few percent. The application of SISCO will allow to investigate state-of-the-art simulations as realistic observations.

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