EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 487, Number 3, September I 2008
Page(s) 937 - 949
Section Extragalactic astronomy
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20078831
Published online 24 June 2008

A&A 487, 937-949 (2008)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20078831

ACS imaging of star clusters in M 51

II. The luminosity function and mass function across the disk
M. R. Haas1, 2, M. Gieles3, R. A. Scheepmaker2, S. S. Larsen2, and H. J. G. L. M. Lamers2

1  Leiden Observatory, Leiden University, PO Box 9513, 2300 Leiden, The Netherlands
    e-mail: haas@strw.leidenuniv.nl
2  Astronomical Institute, Utrecht University, Princetonplein 5, 3584 CC Utrecht, The Netherlands
3  European Southern Observatory, Casilla 19001, Santiago 19, Chile

Received 10 October 2007 / Accepted 16 June 2008

Context. Whether or not there exists a physical upper mass limit for star clusters is as yet unclear. For small cluster samples the mass function may not be sampled all the way to the truncation, if there is one. Data for the rich cluster population in the interacting galaxy M 51 enables us to investigate this in more detail.
Aims. Using HST/ACS data, we investigate whether the cluster luminosity function (LF) in M 51 shows evidence for an upper limit to the mass function. The variations of the cluster luminosity function parameters with position on the disk are addressed.
Methods. We determine the cluster LF for all clusters in M 51 falling within our selection criteria, as well as for several subsets of the sample. In that way we can determine the properties of the cluster population as a function of galactocentric distance and background intensity. By comparing observed and simulated LFs we can constrain the underlying cluster initial mass function and/or cluster disruption parameters. A physical upper mass limit for star clusters will appear as a bend dividing two power law parts in the LF, if the cluster sample is large enough to sample the full range of cluster masses. The location of the bend in the LF is indicative of the value of the upper mass limit. The slopes of the power laws are an interplay between upper mass limits, disruption times and evolutionary fading.
Results. The LF of the cluster population of M 51 is better described by a double power law than by a single power law. We show that the cluster initial mass function is likely to be truncated at the high mass end. We conclude from the variation of the LF parameters with galactocentric distance that both the upper mass limit and the cluster disruption parameters are likely to be a function of position in the galactic disk. At higher galactocentric distances the maximum mass is lower, cluster disruption slower, or both.

Key words: galaxies: star clusters -- galaxies: individual: M 51

© ESO 2008