AAS 198th Meeting, June 2001
Session 36. Interacting Galaxies
Display, Tuesday, June 5, 2001, 10:00am-6:30pm, Exhibit Hall

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[36.04] From Globular Clusters to Tidal Dwarfs: Structure Formation in the Tidal Tails of Merging Pairs

K.A. Knierman, S.C. Gallagher, J.C. Charlton, S.D. Hunsberger (Penn State), B.C. Whitmore (STScI), A. Kundu (Yale University), J.E. Hibbard (NRAO), D.F. Zaritsky (Steward Observatory)

Using V and I images obtained with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) of the Hubble Space Telescope, we investigate compact stellar structures within tidal tails. Six regions of tidal debris in the four classic ``Toomre Sequence'' mergers: NGC 4038/9 (``Antennae''), NGC 3256, NGC 3921, and NGC 7252 (``Atoms for Peace'') have been studied in order to explore how the star formation depends upon the local and global physical conditions. These mergers sample a range of stages in the evolutionary sequence, and include HI--rich and HI--poor environments.

The six tails are found to contain a variety of stellar structures, with sizes ranging from those of globular clusters up to those of dwarf galaxies. From V and I WFPC2 images, we measure the luminosities and colors of the star clusters. NGC 3256 is found to have a large population of young clusters lying along both tails, similar to those found in the inner region of the merger. In contrast, NGC 4038/9 has no clusters in the observed region of the tail, only less luminous point sources likely to be individual stars. NGC 3921 and NGC 7252 have small populations of clusters that are concentrated in certain regions of the tail, and particularly in the prominent tidal dwarfs in the eastern and western tails of NGC 7252. The two cluster--rich tails of NGC 3256 are not distinguished from the others by their ages or by their total HI masses. We acknowledge support from NASA through STScI, and from NSF for an REU supplement for Karen Knierman.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: kknierman@as.arizona.edu

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