Stellar Mass and Population Diagnostics of Cluster Galaxies
Roediger, Joel Christopher
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We conduct a broad investigation about stellar mass and population diagnostics in order to formulate novel constraints related to the formation and evolution of galaxies from a nearby cluster environment. Our work is powered by the use of stellar population models which transform galaxy colours and/or absorption line strengths into estimates of its stellar properties. As input to such models, we assemble an extensive compilation of age and chemical abundance information for Galactic globular clusters. This compilation allows a confident expansion of these models into new regions of parameter space that promise to refine our knowledge of galactic chemical evolution. We then draw upon a state-of-the-art spectroscopic and photometric survey of the Virgo galaxy cluster in order to constrain spatial variations of the stellar ages, metallicities, and masses within its member galaxies, and their dynamical masses. We interpret these data in the context of the histories of star formation, chemical enrichment, and stellar mass assembly to formulate a broad picture of the build-up of this cluster’s content over time. In it, the giant early-type galaxies formed through highly dissipational processes at early times that built up most of their stellar mass and drew significant amounts of dark matter within their optical radii. Conversely, dwarf early-types experienced environmental processes that quenched their star formation during either the early stages of cluster assembly or upon infall at later times. Somewhat perplexing is our finding that the internal dynamics of these galaxies are largely explained by their stellar masses. Lastly, Virgo spirals also suffer from their dense environment, through ram pressure stripping and/or tidal harrassment. In addition to quenching, these effects leave an imprint on their internal dynamical evolution too. Late-type spirals exhibit evidence of having ejected significant amounts of baryons from their inner regions, likely via energetic feedback events. Rich as our picture of the history of the Virgo cluster has become, real progress in our understanding of this system will truly benefit from future high-resolution cosmological and hydrodynamic simulations of this environment. Such simulations are still in their infancy, but the data assembled here should soon provide their most direct validation.