Color-Magnitude Relations within Globular Cluster Systems of Giant Elliptical Galaxies: The Effects of Globular Cluster Mass Loss and the Stellar Initial Mass Function [CEA]

Several recent studies have provided evidence for a `bottom-heavy’ stellar initial mass function (IMF) in massive elliptical galaxies. Here we investigate the influence of the IMF shape on the recently discovered color-magnitude relation (CMR) among globular clusters (GCs) in such galaxies. To this end we use calculations of GC mass loss due to stellar and dynamical evolution to evaluate (i) the shapes of stellar mass functions in GCs after 12 Gyr of evolution as a function of current GC mass along with their effects on integrated-light colors and mass-to-light ratios, and (ii) their impact on the effects of GC self-enrichment using the 2009 `reference’ model of Bailin & Harris. As to the class of metal-poor GCs, we find the observed shape of the CMR (often referred to as the `blue tilt’) to be very well reproduced by Bailin & Harris’ reference self-enrichment model once 12 Gyr of GC mass loss is taken into account. The influence of the IMF on this result is found to be insignificant. However, we find that the observed CMR among the class of metal-rich GCs (the `red tilt’) can only be adequately reproduced if the IMF was bottom-heavy (e.g., $-3.0 <~ \alpha <~ -2.3$ in $dN/dM \propto M^{\alpha}$), which causes the stellar mass function at subsolar masses to depend relatively strongly on GC mass. This constitutes additional evidence that the metal-rich stellar populations in giant elliptical galaxies were formed with a bottom-heavy IMF.

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Date added: Tue, 22 Oct 13