Observations of globular clusters show that they have universal lognormal mass functions with a characteristic peak at ~2 i 105 M⊙, but the origin of this peaked distribution is highly debated. Here we investigate the formation and evolution of star clusters (SCs) in interacting galaxies using high-resolution hydrodynamical simulations performed with two different codes in order to mitigate numerical artifacts. We find that massive SCs in the range of ~105.5-107.5 M⊙ form preferentially in the highly shocked regions produced by galaxy interactions. The nascent cluster-forming clouds have high gas pressures in the range of P k ~ 108-1012 K cm-3 which is ~104-108 times higher than the typical pressure of the interstellar medium but consistent with recent observations of a pre-super-SC cloud in the Antennae Galaxies. Furthermore, these massive SCs have quasi-lognormal initial mass functions with a peak around ~106 M⊙. The number of clusters declines with time due to destructive processes, but the shape and the peak of the mass functions do not change significantly during the course of galaxy collisions. Our results suggest that gas-rich galaxy mergers may provide a favorable environment for the formation of massive SCs such as globular clusters, and that the lognormal mass functions and the unique peak may originate from the extreme high-pressure conditions of the birth clouds and may survive the dynamical evolution.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science