EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 413, Number 3, January III 2004
Page(s) 903 - 912
Section Galactic structure and dynamics
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20034031

A&A 413, 903-912 (2004)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20034031

The distance to the giant elliptical galaxy NGC 5128

M. Rejkuba

European Southern Observatory, Karl-Schwarzschild-Strasse 2, 85748 Garching, Germany
(Received 1 July 2003 / Accepted 18 September 2003)

The distance to NGC 5128, the central galaxy of the Centaurus group and the nearest giant elliptical to us, has been determined using two independent distance indicators: the Mira period-luminosity (PL) relation and the luminosity of the tip of the red giant branch (RGB). The data were taken at two different locations in the halo of NGC 5128 with the ISAAC near-IR array on ESO VLT. From more than 20 hours of observations with ISAAC a very deep $K_{\rm s}$-band luminosity function was constructed. The tip of the RGB is detected at ${K_{\rm s}}=21.24 \pm 0.05$ mag. Using an empirical calibration of the K-band RGB tip magnitude, and assuming a mean metallicity of [M/ H]=-0.4 dex and reddening of E(B-V)=0.11, a distance modulus of NGC 5128 of $({m}-{M})_0=27.87 \pm 0.16$ was derived. The comparison of the H-band RGB tip magnitude in NGC 5128 and the Galactic Bulge implies a distance modulus of NGC 5128 of $({m}-{M})_0=27.9 \pm 0.2$ in good agreement with the K-band RGB tip measurement. The inner halo field has larger photometric errors, brighter completeness limits and a larger number of blends. Thus the RGB tip feature is not as sharp as in the outer halo field. The population of stars above the tip of the RGB amounts to 2176 stars in the outer halo field (Field 1) and 6072 stars in the inner halo field (Field 2). The large majority of these sources belong to the asymptotic giant branch (AGB) population in NGC 5128 with numerous long period variables. Mira variables were used to determine the distance of NGC 5128 from a period-luminosity relation calibrated using the Hipparcos parallaxes and LMC Mira period-luminosity relation in the K-band. This is the first Mira period-luminosity relation outside the Local Group. A distance modulus of $27.96 \pm 0.11$ was derived, adopting the LMC distance modulus of $18.50 \pm 0.04$. The mean of the two methods yields a distance modulus to NGC 5128 of $27.92 \pm 0.19$ corresponding to $D=3.84 \pm 0.35$ Mpc.

Key words: galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD -- galaxies: stellar content -- stars: fundamental parameters -- galaxies: individual: NGC 5128

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© ESO 2004