Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-1-2012

Abstract

Due to its proximity (9 Mpc) and the strongly bimodal color distribution of its spectroscopically well-sampled globular cluster (GC) system, the early-type galaxy NGC 3115 provides one of the best available tests of whether the color bimodality widely observed in GC systems generally reflects a true metallicity bimodality. Color bimodality has alternatively been attributed to a strongly nonlinear color-metallicity relation reflecting the influence of hot horizontal-branch stars. Here, we couple Subaru Suprime-Cam gi photometry with Keck/DEIMOS spectroscopy to accurately measure GC colors and a CaT index that measures the Ca II triplet. We find the NGC 3115 GC system to be unambiguously bimodal in both color and the CaT index. Using simple stellar population models, we show that the CaT index is essentially unaffected by variations in horizontal-branch morphology over the range of metallicities relevant to GC systems (and is thus a robust indicator of metallicity) and confirm bimodality in the metallicity distribution. We assess the existing evidence for and against multiple metallicity subpopulations in early- and late-type galaxies and conclude that metallicity bi/multimodality is common. We briefly discuss how this fundamental characteristic links directly to the star formation and assembly histories of galaxies.

Comments

Copyright © 2012 Institute of Physics. The published version of the article can be found online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/2041-8205/759/2/L33.

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