LERMA, Observatoire de Paris, 61 avenue de l'Observatoire, 75014 Paris, France
2 Cornell University, Astronomy Department, 106 Space Sciences Bldg., Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
3 Observatoire de Marseille, 2 place Le Verrier, 13248 Marseille Cedex 4, France
4 Space Telescope European Coordinating Facility, European Southern Observatory, Karl-Schwarzschild-Strasse-2, 85748 Garching bei München, Germany
5 Observatoire de Genève, 51 Ch. des Maillettes, 1290 Sauverny, Switzerland
6 Laboratoire d'Astrophysique, UMR 5572, Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées, 14 avenue E. Belin, 31400 Toulouse, France
Corresponding author: F. Meynadier, Frederic.Meynadier@obspm.fr
Accepted: 25 August 2003
We present near infrared JHK imaging of the Small Magellanic Cloud compact region N81 using the ISAAC camera at the ESO Very Large Telescope (Antu). Our analysis of the stellar environment of this young massive star region reveals the presence of three new stellar populations in the surrounding field which are mainly composed of low mass stars. The main population is best fitted by evolutionary models for ~2 stars with an age of 1 Gyr. We argue that these populations are not physically associated with the region N81. Instead they are the result of a number of low mass star forming events through the depth of the SMC south of its Shapley's wing. The populations can rather easily be probed due to the low interstellar extinction in that direction.
Key words: stars: early-type / ISM: individual objects: N81 (SMC) / galaxies: Magellanic Clouds
Based on observations obtained at the European Southern Observatory, Paranal, Chile; Program 69.A-0123(A).
© ESO, 2003