Rediscovery of the sixth Star Cluster in the Fornax dwarf spheroidal galaxy

Dark Energy Survey Collaboration, David Bacon, D. Thomas

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Since first noticed by Shapley in 1939, a faint object coincident with the Fornax dwarf spheroidal has long been discussed as a possible sixth globular cluster system. However, debate has continued over whether this overdensity is a statistical artifact or a blended galaxy group. In this Letter we demonstrate, using deep DECam imaging data, that this object is well resolved into stars and is a bona fide star cluster. The stellar overdensity of this cluster is statistically significant at the level of ~ 6 - 6.7 sigma in several different photometric catalogs including Gaia. Therefore, it is highly unlikely to be caused by random fluctuation. We show that Fornax 6 is a star cluster with a peculiarly low surface brightness and irregular shape, which may indicate a strong tidal influence from its host galaxy. The Hess diagram of Fornax 6 is largely consistent with that of Fornax field stars, but it appears to be slightly bluer. However, it is still likely more metal-rich than most of the globular clusters in the system. Faint clusters like Fornax 6 that orbit and potentially get disrupted in the centers of dwarf galaxies can prove crucial for constraining the dark matter distribution in Milky Way satellites.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberL13
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2019


  • astro-ph.GA
  • RCUK
  • STFC


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