An extended star formation history in an ultra-compact dwarf

Norris, Mark, Escudero, Carlos G., Faifer, Favio R., Kannappan, Sheila J., Forte, Juan Carlos and van den Bosch, Remco C.E. (2015) An extended star formation history in an ultra-compact dwarf. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 451 (4). pp. 3615-3626. ISSN 0035-8711

[thumbnail of Version of Record]
PDF (Version of Record) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.


Official URL:


There has been significant controversy over the mechanisms responsible for forming compact stellar systems like ultra-compact dwarfs (UCDs), with suggestions that UCDs are simply the high-mass extension of the globular cluster population, or alternatively, the liberated nuclei of galaxies tidally stripped by larger companions. Definitive examples of UCDs formed by either route have been difficult to find, with only a handful of persuasive examples of stripped-nucleus-type UCDs being known. In this paper, we present very deep Gemini/GMOS spectroscopic observations of the suspected stripped-nucleus UCD NGC 4546-UCD1 taken in good seeing conditions (<0.7 arcsec). With these data we examine the spatially resolved kinematics and star formation history of this unusual object. We find no evidence of a rise in the central velocity dispersion of the UCD, suggesting that this UCD lacks a massive central black hole like those found in some other compact stellar systems, a conclusion confirmed by detailed dynamical modelling. Finally, we are able to use our extremely high signal-to-noise spectrum to detect a temporally extended star formation history for this UCD. We find that the UCD was forming stars since the earliest epochs until at least 1–2 Gyr ago. Taken together these observations confirm that NGC 4546-UCD1 is the remnant nucleus of a nucleated dwarf galaxy that was tidally destroyed by NGC 4546 within the last 1–2 Gyr.

Repository Staff Only: item control page