Globular Cluster Systems of Early-type Galaxies in Low-density Environments

  • Published : 2010.04.15


We present the properties of globular cluster systems for 10 early-type galaxies in low density environments obtained using deep images from the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Using the ACS Virgo Cluster Survey as a counterpart in high-density environments, we investigate the role of environment in determining the properties of their globular cluster systems. We detect a strong colour bimodality of globular cluster systems in half of our galaxy sample. It is found that there is a strong correlation between the colour and richness of globular cluster populations and their host galaxy luminosities: the less bright galaxies possess bluer and fewer globular clusters as also seen in rich cluster environments. However, the mean colour of globular clusters in our field sample are slightly bluer than those in cluster environments at a given galaxy luminosity, and the colour of the red population has a steeper slope with absolute luminosity. By employing the YEPS simple stellar population model, the colour offset corresponds to metallicity difference of $\Delta$[F e/H ] ~ 0.15 - 1.20 or an age difference of $\Delta$age ~ 2 Gyr on average, implying that GCs in field galaxies appear to be either less metal-rich or younger than those in cluster galaxies. Although we have found that galaxy environment has a subtle effect on the formation and metal enrichment of GC systems, host galaxy mass is the primary factor that determines the stellar populations of GCs and the galaxy itself.