Starbursts versus Truncated Star Formation in Nearby Clusters of Galaxies

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The Astronomical Journal


We present long-slit spectroscopy, B - and R -bandpass imaging, and 21 cm observations of a sample of early-type galaxies in nearby clusters, which are known to be either in a star-forming phase or to have had star formation that recently terminated. From the long-slit spectra, obtained with the Blanco 4 m telescope, we ‹nd that emission lines in the star-forming cluster galaxies are signi‹cantly more centrally concentrated than in a sample of ‹eld galaxies. The broadband imaging reveals that two currently starforming early-type galaxies in the Pegasus I cluster have blue nuclei, again indicating that recent star formation has been concentrated. In contrast, the two galaxies for which star formation has already ended show no central color gradient. The Pegasus I galaxy with the most evident signs of ongoing star formation (NGC 7648), exhibits signatures of a tidal encounter. Neutral hydrogen observations of that galaxy with the Arecibo radio telescope reveal the presence of D 4] 108 M of H I . Arecibo observations of other current or recent star-forming early-type galaxies in Pegasus I indicate smaller amounts of gas in one of them, and only upper limits in others. These observations indicate that NGC 7648 in the Pegasus I cluster owes its present star formation episode to some form of tidal interaction. The same may be true for the other galaxies with centralized star formation, but we cannot rule out the possibility that their outer disks have been removed via ram pressure stripping, followed by rapid quenching of star formation in the central region.



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