EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 501, Number 2, July II 2009
Page(s) 563 - 583
Section Galactic structure, stellar clusters, and populations
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/20078597
Published online 13 May 2009
A&A 501, 563-583 (2009)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/20078597

The massive star initial mass function of the Arches cluster

P. Espinoza1, 2, F. J. Selman3, and J. Melnick3

1  Steward Observatory, The University of Arizona, 933 North Cherry Avenue, Tucson AZ 85719, USA
    e-mail: pespinoza@as.arizona.edu
2  Previous Address: Departamento de Astronomía y Astrofísica, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile
3  European Southern Observatory, Alonso de Córdova 3107, Santiago, Chile
    e-mail: [fselman;jmelnick]@eso.org

Received 1 September 2007 / Accepted 21 April 2009

The massive Arches cluster near the Galactic center should be an ideal laboratory for investigating massive star formation under extreme conditions. But it comes at a high price: the cluster is hidden behind several tens of magnitudes of visual extinction. Severe crowding requires space or AO-assisted instruments to resolve the stellar populations, and even with the best instruments interpreting the data is far from direct. Several investigations using NICMOS and the most advanced AO imagers on the ground revealed an overall top-heavy IMF for the cluster, with a very flat IMF near the center. There are several effects, however, that could potentially bias these results, in particular the strong differential extinction and the problem of transforming the observations into a standard photometric system in the presence of strong reddening. We present new observations obtained with the NAOS-Conica (NACO) AO-imager on the VLT. The problem of photometric transformation is avoided by working in the natural photometric system of NACO, and we use a Bayesian approach to determine masses and reddenings from the broad-band IR colors. A global value of $\Gamma$ = -1.1 $\pm$ 0.2 for the high-mass end (M > 10 $M_{\odot}$) of the IMF is obtained, and we conclude that a power law of Salpeter slope cannot be discarded for the Arches cluster. The flattening of the IMF towards the center is confirmed, but is less severe than previously thought. We find $\Gamma$ = -0.88 $\pm$ 0.20, which is incompatible with previous determinations. Within 0.4 pc we derive a total mass of ~2.0($\pm$0.6) $\times$ 104 $M_{\odot}$ for the cluster and a central mass density $\rho$ = 2($\pm$0.4) $\times$ 105 $M_{\odot}$ pc-3 that confirms Arches as the densest known young massive cluster in the Milky Way.

Key words: Galaxy: open clusters and associations: individual: Arches -- stars: early-type -- instrumentation: adaptive optics -- ISM: dust, extinction -- stars: luminosity function, mass function

© ESO 2009