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Daytona Beach


Physical Sciences

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We have used the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) to detect and measure ~5300 stars in a single intracluster field in the Virgo Cluster. By performing F606W and F814W photometry on these stars, we have determined their metallicity distribution function and constrained the types of stars present in this portion of Virgo's intracluster space. Based on the small number of stars detected that were brighter than the red giant branch (RGB) tip, we suggest that in this region, Virgo's intracluster stars are mostly old (10 Gyr). Through analysis of the RGB stars themselves, we determine that the population contains the full range of metallicities probed (-2.3 ≤ [M/H] ≤ 0.0). We also present evidence that the younger (≤10 Gyr) component of the population is more metal-rich, with [M/H] > -0.5. The spatial distribution of the most metal-poor stars in the field shows significantly more structure than that of the metal-rich stars, indicating that the intracluster population is not well mixed. We discuss the implications that these observations have for the production of intracluster stars and the dynamical evolution of the Virgo Cluster.

Publication Title

The Astrophysical Journal


Institute of Physics Publishing, Inc.

Grant or Award Name

NASA grant NAG5-9377 and Space Telescope Science Institute grant GO-10131

Additional Information

Dr. von Hippel was not affiliated with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University at the time this paper was published.