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On the Interpretation of the Age Distribution of Star Clusters in the Small Magellanic Cloud

Gieles, M, Lamers, HJGLM and Zwart, SFP (2007) On the Interpretation of the Age Distribution of Star Clusters in the Small Magellanic Cloud

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We re-analyze the age distribution (dN/dt) of star clusters in the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) using age determinations based on the Magellanic Cloud Photometric Survey. For ages younger than 3x10^9 yr the dN/dt distribution can be approximated by a power-law distribution, dN/dt propto t^-beta, with -beta=-0.70+/-0.05 or -beta=-0.84+/-0.04, depending on the model used to derive the ages. Predictions for a cluster population without dissolution limited by a V-band detection result in a power-law dN/dt distribution with an index of ~-0.7. This is because the limiting cluster mass increases with age, due to evolutionary fading of clusters, reducing the number of observed clusters at old ages. When a mass cut well above the limiting cluster mass is applied, the dN/dt distribution is flat up to 1 Gyr. We conclude that cluster dissolution is of small importance in shaping the dN/dt distribution and incompleteness causes dN/dt to decline. The reason that no (mass independent) infant mortality of star clusters in the first ~10-20 Myr is found is explained by a detection bias towards clusters without nebular emission, i.e. cluster that have survived the infant mortality phase. The reason we find no evidence for tidal (mass dependent) cluster dissolution in the first Gyr is explained by the weak tidal field of the SMC. Our results are in sharp contrast to the interpretation of Chandar et al. (2006), who interpret the declining dN/dt distribution as rapid cluster dissolution. This is due to their erroneous assumption that the sample is limited by cluster mass, rather than luminosity.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Surrey research (other units)
Authors :
Lamers, HJGLM
Zwart, SFP
Date : 8 June 2007
DOI : 10.1086/520795
Uncontrolled Keywords : astro-ph, astro-ph
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 17 May 2017 12:40
Last Modified : 24 Jan 2020 22:38

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