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Globular Cluster Systems of Elliptical Galaxies

  • Stephen E. Zepf (a1) and Keith M. Ashman (a2)

Abstract

We review the observed properties of globular cluster systems and their implications for models of galaxy formation. Observations show that globular clusters form in gas-rich mergers, and that bimodal metallicity distributions are common in the globular cluster systems of ellipticals, with the metal-poor population more extended than the metal-rich one. These are three of the four predictions of the simple merger model of Ashman & Zepf (1992). The fourth prediction concerns the properties of the globular cluster systems of spirals, and is still to be tested by observation. Adopting Occam's razor, the confirmation of the fundamental predictions of the merger model from both young and old globular cluster systems is strong evidence that typical elliptical galaxies formed from the mergers of spiral galaxies. However, the simplifying assumptions of the Ashman-Zepf merger model limit its applicability to certain complex situations such as the formation of cD galaxies. We conclude this review by introducing new observational and theoretical programs that will further the understanding of the physical mechanisms of globular cluster and galaxy formation.

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References

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