The antennae galaxies (NGC 4038/4039) Revisited: Advanced camera for surveys and nicmos observations of a prototypical merger

Bradley C. Whitmore, Rupali Chandar, François Schweizer, Barry Rothberg, Claus Leitherer, Marcia Rieke, George Rieke, W. P. Blair, S. Mengel, A. Alonso-Herrero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

170 Scopus citations


The Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) have been used to obtain new Hubble Space Telescope images of NGC 4038/4039 ("The Antennae"). These new observations allow us to better differentiate compact star clusters from individual stars, based on both size and color. We use this ability to extend the cluster luminosity function (LF) by approximately 2mag over our previous WFPC2 results, and find that it continues as a single power law, dN/dL L α with α = -2.13 ± 0.07, down to the observational limit of MV ≈-7. Similarly, the mass function (MF) is a single power law dN/dM M β with β = -2.10 ± 0.20 for clusters with ages <3 × 108 yr, corresponding to lower mass limits that range from 104 to 105 M , depending on the age range of the subsample. Hence, the power-law indices for the luminosity and MFs are essentially the same. The LF for intermediate-age clusters (i.e., 100-300 Myr old objects found in the loops, tails, and outer areas) shows no bend or turnover down to MV ≈-6, consistent with relaxation-driven cluster disruption models which predict the turnover should not be observed until MV ≈-4. An analysis of individual 0.5kpc sized areas over diverse environments shows good agreement between values of α and β, similar to the results for the total population of clusters in the system. There is tentative evidence that the values of both α and β are flatter for the youngest clusters in some areas, but it is possible that this is caused by observational biases. Several of the areas studied show evidence for age gradients, with somewhat older clusters appearing to have triggered the formation of younger clusters. The area around Knot B is a particularly interesting example, with a 10-50Myr old cluster of estimated mass 106 M having apparently triggered the formation of several younger, more massive (up to 5 × 106 M ) clusters along a dust lane. A comparison with new NICMOS observations reveals that only 16% 6% of the IR-bright clusters in the Antennae are still heavily obscured, with values of AV >3mag.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-109
Number of pages35
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010


  • Galaxies: individual (NGC 4038 NGC 4039)
  • Galaxies: interactions
  • Galaxies: star clusters: general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The antennae galaxies (NGC 4038/4039) Revisited: Advanced camera for surveys and nicmos observations of a prototypical merger'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this