We report the initial results of a survey for intracluster planetary nebulae in the Virgo Cluster. In two 16′ × 16′ fields, we identify 69 and 16 intracluster planetary nebula candidates, respectively. In a third 16′ × 16′ field near the central elliptical galaxy M87, we detect 75 planetary nebula candidates, of which a substantial fraction are intracluster in nature. By examining the number of the planetaries detected in each field and the shape of the planetary nebula luminosity function, we show that (1) the intracluster starlight of Virgo is distributed nonuniformly and varies between subclumps A and B, (2) the Virgo Cluster core extends ∼3 Mpc in front of M87, and thus is elongated along the line of sight, and (3) a minimum of 22% of Virgo's stellar luminosity resides between the galaxies in our fields, and the true number may be considerably larger. We also use our planetary nebula data to argue that the intracluster stars in Virgo are likely derived from a population that is of moderate age and metallicity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science