Observational evidence for a truncation of the star cluster initial mass function at the high mass end

M. Gieles, S.S. Larsen, R.A. Scheepmaker, N. Bastian, M.R. Haas, H.J.G.L.M. Lamers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We present the luminosity function (LF) of star clusters in M51 based on HST/ACS observations taken as part of the Hubble Heritage project. The clusters are selected based on their size and with the resulting 5990 clusters we present one of the largest cluster samples of a single galaxy. We find that the LF can be approximated with a double power-law distribution with a break around MV = −8.9. On the bright side the index of the power-law distribution is steeper (α = 2.75) than on the faint-side (α = 1.93), similar to what was found earlier for the “Antennae” galaxies. The location of the bend, however, occurs about 1.6 mag fainter in M51. We confront the observed LF with the model for the evolution of integrated properties of cluster populations of Gieles et al. (2006, A&A, accepted), which predicts that a truncated cluster initial mass function would result in a bend in, and a double power-law behaviour of, the integrated LF. The combination of the large field-of view and the high star cluster formation rate of M51 make it possible to detect such a bend in the LF. Hence, we conclude that there exists a fundamental upper limit to the mass of star clusters in M51. Assuming a power-law cluster initial mass function with exponentional cut-off of the form N dM ∝ M−β exp(−M/MC) dM, we find that MC = 105 M . A direct comparison with the LF of the “Antennae” suggests that there MC = 4 × 105 M .
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)L9-L12
Number of pages4
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Cite this