We present a study of globular clusters (GCs) and other small stellar systems (SSSs) in the field of NGC 3115, observed as part of the ongoing wide-field imaging survey VEGAS, carried out with the 2.6 m VST telescope. We used deep g and i observations of NGC 3115, a well-studied lenticular galaxy that is covered excellently well in the scientific literature. This is fundamental to test the methodologies, verify the results, and probe the capabilities of the VEGAS-SSS. Leveraging the large field of view of the VST allowed us to accurately study the distribution and properties of SSSs as a function of galactocentric distance, well beyond ~20 galaxy effective radii, in a way that is rarely possible. Our analysis of colors, magnitudes, and sizes of SSS candidates confirms the results from existing studies, some of which were carried out with 8–10 m class telescopes, and further extends them to previously unreached galactocentric distances with similar accuracy. In particular, we find a color bimodality for the GC population and a de Vaucouleurs r1/4 profile for the surface density of GCs similar to the galaxy light profile. The radial color gradient of blue and red GCs previously found, for instance, by the SLUGGS survey with Subaru and Keck data, is further extended out to the largest galactocentric radii inspected, ~65 kpc. In addition, the surface density profiles of blue and red GCs taken separately are well approximated by a r1/4 density profile, with the fraction of blue GCs being slightly larger at larger radii. We do not find hints of a trend for the red GC subpopulation and for the GC turnover magnitude to vary with radius, but we observe a ~0.2 mag difference in the turnover magnitude of the blue and red GC subpopulations. Finally, from inspecting SSS sizes and colors, we obtain a list of ultracompact dwarf galaxies and GC candidates suitable for future spectroscopic follow-up. In conclusion, our study shows i) the reliability of the methodologies developed to study SSSs in the field of bright early-type galaxies; and ii) the great potential of the VEGAS survey to produce original results on SSSs science, mainly thanks to the wide-field imaging adopted.
Michele Cantiello, Massimo Capaccioli, Nicola Napolitano, Aniello Grado, Luca Limatola, Maurizio Paolillo, Enrica Iodice, Aaron Romanowsky, Duncan Forbes, Gabriella Raimondo, Marilena Spavone, Francesco La Barbera, Thomas Puzia, and Pietro Schipani. "VEGAS-SSS. A VST early-type galaxy survey: analysis of small stellar systems: Testing the methodology on the globular cluster system in NGC 3115⋆" Astronomy & Astrophysics (2015). doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201425165