Despite the great potential of the U-band galaxy luminosity function (GLF) to constrain the history of star formation in clusters, to clarify the question of variations of the GLF across filter bands, to provide a baseline for comparisons to high-redshift studies of the cluster GLF, and to estimate the contribution of bound systems of galaxies to the extragalactic near-UV background, determinations have so far been hampered by the generally low efficiency of detectors in the U band and by the difficulty of constructing both deep and wide surveys. In this paper we present U-band GLFs of three nearby, rich clusters to a limit of MU ≈ -17.5 (MU* + 2). Our analysis is based on a combination of separate spectroscopic and R- and U-band photometric surveys. For this purpose, we have developed a new maximum likelihood algorithm for calculating the LF that is particularly useful for reconstructing the galaxy distribution function in multidimensional spaces (e.g., the number of galaxies as a simultaneous function of luminosity in different filter bands, surface brightness, star formation rate, morphology, etc.) because it requires no prior assumptions as to the shape of the distribution function. The composite LF can be described by a Schechter function with characteristic magnitude MU* = -19.82 ± 0.27 and faint-end slope αU = -1.09 ± 0.18. The total U-band GLF is slightly steeper than the R-band GLF, indicating that cluster galaxies are bluer at fainter magnitudes. Quiescent galaxies dominate the cumulative U-band flux for MU < -14. The contribution of galaxies in nearby clusters to the U-band extragalactic background is less than 1% Gyr-1 for clusters of masses ∼3 × 1014-2 ×1015 M⊙.
- Galaxies: clusters: general
- Galaxies: luminosity function, mass function
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science