How elevated is the dynamical-to-stellar mass ratio of the ultra-compact dwarf S999?

Joachim Janz, Duncan A. Forbes, Mark A. Norris, Jay Strader, Samantha J. Penny, Martina Fagioli, Aaron J. Romanowsky

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Here we present new Keck ESI high-resolution spectroscopy and deep archival HST/ACS imaging for S999, an ultra-compact dwarf in the vicinity of M87, which was claimed to have an extremely high dynamical-to-stellar mass ratio. Our data increase the total integration times by a factor of 5 and 60 for spectroscopy and imaging, respectively. This allows us to constrain the stellar population parameters for the first time (simple stellar population equivalent age $=7.6^{+2.0}_{-1.6}$ Gyr; $[Z/\textrm{H}]=-0.95^{+0.12}_{-0.10}$; $[\alpha/\textrm{Fe}]=0.34^{+0.10}_{-0.12}$). Assuming a Kroupa stellar initial mass function, the stellar population parameters and luminosity ($M_{F814W}=-12.13\pm0.06$ mag) yield a stellar mass of $M_*=3.9^{+0.9}_{-0.6}\times10^6 M_{\odot}$, which we also find to be consistent with near-infrared data. Via mass modelling, with our new measurements of velocity dispersion ($\sigma_{ap}=27\pm2$ km s$^{-1}$) and size ($R_e=20.9\pm1.0$ pc), we obtain an elevated dynamical-to-stellar mass ratio $M_{dyn}/M_*=8.2$ (with a range $5.6\le M_{dyn}/M_* \le 11.2$). Furthermore, we analyse the surface brightness profile of S999, finding only a small excess of light in the outer parts with respect to the fitted S\'ersic profile, and a positive colour gradient. Taken together these observations suggest that S999 is the remnant of a much larger galaxy that has been tidally stripped. If so, the observed elevated mass ratio may be caused by mechanisms related to the stripping process: the existence of an massive central black hole or internal kinematics that are out of equilibrium due to the stripping event. Given the observed dynamical-to-stellar mass ratio we suggest that S999 is an ideal candidate to search for the presence of an overly massive central black hole.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1716-1730
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
Early online date25 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • astro-ph.GA
  • galaxies: clusters: individual: Virgo Cluster
  • galaxies: dwarf
  • galaxies: star clusters: general


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