We present results from a study of the globular cluster luminosity function (GCLF) in a sample of 89 earlytype galaxies observed as part of the ACS Virgo Cluster Survey. Using a Gaussian parametrization of the GCLF, we find a highly significant correlation between the GCLF dispersion, , and the galaxy luminosity, MB,gal, in the sense that the GC systems in fainter galaxies have narrower luminosity functions. The GCLF dispersions in the Milky Way and M31 are fully consistent with this trend, implying that the correlation between sigma and galaxy luminosity is more fundamental than older suggestions that GCLF shape is a function of galaxy Hubble type. We show that the -MB,gal relation results from a bonafide narrowing of the distribution of (logarithmic) cluster masses in fainter galaxies. We further show that this behavior is mirrored by a steepening of the GC mass function for relatively high masses,M& 3×105M⊙, a mass regime in which the shape of the GCLF is not strongly affected by dynamical evolution over a Hubble time. We argue that this trend arises from variations in initial conditions and requires explanation by theories of cluster formation. Finally, we confirm that in bright galaxies, the GCLF “turns over" at the canonicalmass scale ofMTO ≃2×105M⊙. However, we find thatMTO scatters to lower values (≈ 1-2×105M⊙) in galaxies fainter than MB,gal & -18.5, an important consideration if the GCLF is to be used as a distance indicator for dwarf ellipticals.

Publication Date



This is the pre-print of an article published by the American Astronomical Society. The final, published version is available here: https://doi.org/10.1086/509119

© 2006 The American Astronomical Society.

Also archived in: arXiv:astro-ph/0609371 v1 Sep 13 2006

Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works in February 2014.

Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

School of Physics and Astronomy (COS)


RIT – Main Campus