Is There a Fundamental Upper Limit to the Mass of a Star Cluster?

Norris, Mark A. orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7001-805X, van de Ven, Glenn, Kannappan, Sheila J., Schinnerer, Eva and Leaman, Ryan (2019) Is There a Fundamental Upper Limit to the Mass of a Star Cluster? Monthly Notices Of The Royal Astronomical Society, 488 (4). pp. 5400-5408. ISSN 0035-8711

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The discovery around the turn of the millenium of a population of very massive (Mstar > 2 x 10^6 M⊙) compact stellar systems (CSS) with physical properties (radius, velocity dispersion, stellar mass etc.) that are intermediate between those of the classical globular cluster (GC) population and galaxies led to questions about their exact nature. Recently a consensus has emerged that these objects, usually called ultra compact dwarfs (UCDs), are a mass-dependent mixture of high mass star clusters and remnant nuclei of tidally disrupted galaxies. The existence of genuine star clusters with stellar masses >10^7 M⊙ naturally leads to questions about the upper mass limit of the star cluster formation process. In this work we compile a comprehensive catalog of compact stellar systems, and reinforce the evidence that the true ancient star cluster population has a maximum mass of Mstar ~ 5 x 10^7 M⊙, corresponding to a stellar mass at birth of close to 10^8 M⊙. We then discuss several physical and statistical mechanisms potentially responsible for creating this limiting mass.

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