On the importance of the few most massive stars: The ionizing cluster of NGC 588*
LUTH, Observatoire de Meudon, 5 place Jules Janssen, 92195 Meudon Cedex, France e-mail: Luc.Jamet@obspm.fr
2 Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (CSIC), Apartado 3004, 18080 Granada, Spain
Accepted: 21 June 2004
We present the results of a double analysis of the ionizing cluster in NGC 588, a giant Hii region (GHR) in the outskirts of the nearby galaxy M 33. For this purpose, we obtained ground based long-slit spectroscopy and combined it with archival ground based and space borne imaging and spectroscopy, in the wavelength range 1100-9800 Å. A first modeling of the cluster was performed using integrated properties, such as the spectral energy distribution (SED), broad band colors, nebular emission Hβ equivalent width, the main ultraviolet resonance lines, and the presence of Wolf-Rayet star features. By applying standard assumptions about the initial mass function (IMF), we were unable to fit satisfactorily these observational data. This contradictory result led us to carry out a second modeling, based on a resolved photometric analysis of individual stars in Hubble Space Telescope (HST) images, by means of finding the best fit isochrone in color-magnitude diagrams (CMD), and assigning a theoretical SED to each individual star. The overall SED of the cluster, obtained by integrating the individual stellar SEDs, is found to fit better the observed SED than the best solution found through the integrated first analysis, but at a significantly later stage of evolution of the cluster of 4.2 Myr, as obtained from the best fit to the CMD. A comparative analysis of both methods traces the different results to the effects of statistical fluctuations in the upper end of the IMF, which are significant in NGC 588, with a computed cluster mass of 5600 , as predicted by Cerviño et al. (2002, A&A, 381, 51). We discuss the results in terms of the strong influence of the few most massive stars, six in the case of NGC 588, that dominate the overall SED and, in particular, the ionizing far ultraviolet range beyond the Lyman limit.
Key words: stars: evolution / stars: luminosity function, mass function / stars: Hertzsprung-Russell (HR) and C-M diagrams / stars: Wolf-Rayet / ISM: individual objects: NGC 588 / galaxies: individual: M 33
© ESO, 2004