Volume 532, August 2011
|Number of page(s)||11|
|Section||Galactic structure, stellar clusters and populations|
|Published online||03 August 2011|
A highly efficient measure of mass segregation in star clusters
Astronomisches Rechen-Institut (ARI), Zentrum für Astronomie Universität
2 Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie (MPIA), Königstuhl 17, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
3 National Astronomical Observatories of China, Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC/CAS), 20A Datun Lu, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100012, PR China
4 The Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University (KIAA), Yi He Yuan Lu 5, Hai Dian Qu, Beijing 100871, PR China
Accepted: 4 July 2011
Context. Investigations of mass segregation are of vital interest for the understanding of the formation and dynamical evolution of stellar systems on a wide range of spatial scales. A consistent analysis requires a robust measure among different objects and well-defined comparison with theoretical expectations. Various methods have been used for this purpose but usually with limited significance, quantifiability, and application to both simulations and observations.
Aims. We aim at developing a measure of mass segregation with as few parameters as possible, robustness against peculiar configurations, independence of mass determination, simple implementation, stable algorithm, and that is equally well adoptable for data from either simulations or observations.
Methods. Our method is based on the minimum spanning tree (MST) that serves as a geometry-independent measure of concentration. Compared to previous such approaches we obtain a significant refinement by using the geometrical mean as an intermediate-pass.
Results. The geometrical mean boosts the sensitivity compared to previous applications of the MST. It thus allows the detection of mass segregation with much higher confidence and for much lower degrees of mass segregation than other approaches. The method shows in particular very clear signatures even when applied to small subsets of the entire population. We confirm with high significance strong mass segregation of the five most massive stars in the Orion nebula cluster (ONC).
Conclusions. Our method is the most sensitive general measure of mass segregation so far and provides robust results for both data from simulations and observations. As such it is ideally suited for tracking mass segregation in young star clusters and to investigate the long standing paradigm of primordial mass segregation by comparison of simulations and observations.
Key words: methods: numerical / galaxies: star clusters: general
© ESO, 2011
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