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  1. We present spatially resolved Keck Cosmic Web Imager stellar spectroscopy of the Virgo cluster dwarf galaxies VCC 9 and VCC 1448. These galaxies have similar stellar masses and large half-light radii but very different globular cluster (GC) system richness (∼25 versus ∼99 GCs). Using the KCWI data, we spectroscopically confirm 10 GCs associated with VCC 1448 and one GC associated with VCC 9. We make two measurements of dynamical mass for VCC 1448 based on the stellar and GC velocities, respectively. VCC 1448’s mass measurements suggest that it resides in a halo in better agreement with the expectation of the stellar mass–halo mass relationship than the expectation from its large GC counts. For VCC 9, the dynamical mass we measure agrees with the expected halo mass from both relationships. We compare VCC 1448 and VCC 9 to the GC-rich galaxy Dragonfly 44 (∼74 GCs), which is similar in size but has ∼1 dex less stellar mass than either Virgo galaxy. In dynamical mass – GC number space, Dragonfly 44 and VCC 1448 exhibit richer GC systems given their dynamical mass than that of VCC 9 and other ‘normal’ galaxies. We also place the galaxies in kinematics–ellipticity space finding evidence of an anticorrelation between rotational support and the fraction of a galaxy’s stellar mass in its GC system, that is, VCC 9 is more rotationally supported than VCC 1448, which is more rotationally supported than Dragonfly 44. This trend may be expected if a galaxy’s GC content depends on its natal gas properties at formation. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 13, 2025
  2. ABSTRACT

    Observational surveys have found that the dynamical masses of ultradiffuse galaxies (UDGs) correlate with the richness of their globular cluster (GC) system. This could be explained if GC-rich galaxies formed in more massive dark matter haloes. We use simulations of galaxies and their GC systems from the E-MOSAICS project to test whether the simulations reproduce such a trend. We find that GC-rich simulated galaxies in galaxy groups have enclosed masses that are consistent with the dynamical masses of observed GC-rich UDGs. However, simulated GC-poor galaxies in galaxy groups have higher enclosed masses than those observed. We argue that GC-poor UDGs with low stellar velocity dispersions are discs observed nearly face on, such that their true mass is underestimated by observations. Using the simulations, we show that galactic star formation conditions resulting in dispersion-supported stellar systems also leads to efficient GC formation. Conversely, conditions leading to rotationally supported discs lead to inefficient GC formation. This result may explain why early-type galaxies typically have richer GC systems than late-type galaxies. This is also supported by comparisons of stellar axis ratios and GC-specific frequencies in observed dwarf galaxy samples, which show GC-rich systems are consistent with being spheroidal, while GC-poor systems are consistent with being discs. Therefore, particularly for GC-poor galaxies, rotation should be included in dynamical mass measurements from stellar dynamics.

     
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  3. ABSTRACT

    We derive the stellar population parameters of 11 quiescent ultra-diffuse galaxies (UDGs) from Keck/KCWI data. We supplement these with 14 literature UDGs, creating the largest spectroscopic sample of UDGs to date (25). We find a strong relationship between their α-enhancement and their star formation histories: UDGs that formed on very short time-scales have elevated [Mg/Fe] abundance ratios, whereas those forming over extended periods present lower values. Those forming earlier and faster are overall found in high-density environments, being mostly early infalls into the cluster. No other strong trends are found with infall times. We analyse the stellar mass–metallicity, age–metallicity, and [Mg/Fe]–metallicity relations of the UDGs, comparing them to other types of low mass galaxies. Overall, UDGs scatter around the established stellar mass–metallicity relations of classical dwarfs. We find that GC-rich UDGs have intermediate-to-old ages, but previously reported trends of galaxy metallicity and GC richness are not reproduced with this spectroscopic sample due to the existence of GC-rich UDGs with elevated metallicities. In addition, we also find that a small fraction of UDGs could be ‘failed-galaxies’, supported by their GC richness, high alpha-abundance, fast formation time-scales and that they follow the mass–metallicity relation of z ∼2 galaxies. Finally, we also compare our observations to simulated UDGs. We caution that there is not a single simulation that can produce the diverse UDG properties simultaneously, in particular the low metallicity failed galaxy like UDGs.

     
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  4. ABSTRACT

    We use spectral energy distribution fitting to place constraints on the stellar populations of 59 ultra-diffuse galaxies (UDGs) in the low-to-moderate density fields of the MATLAS survey. We use the routine prospector, coupled with archival data in the optical from the Dark Energy Camera Legacy Survey, and near- and mid-infrared imaging from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, to recover the stellar masses, ages, metallicities, and star formation time-scales of the UDGs. We find that a subsample of the UDGs lies within the scatter of the mass–metallicity relation (MZR) for local classical dwarfs. However, another subsample is more metal-poor, being consistent with the evolving MZR at high redshift. We investigate UDG positioning trends in the mass–metallicity plane as a function of surface brightness, effective radius, axis ratio, local volume density, mass-weighted age, star formation time-scale, globular cluster (GC) counts, and GC specific frequency. We find that our sample of UDGs can be separated into two main classes: Class A: comprised of UDGs with lower stellar masses, prolonged star formation histories (SFHs), more elongated, inhabiting less dense environments, hosting fewer GCs, younger, consistent with the classical dwarf MZR, and fainter. Class B: UDGs with higher stellar masses, rapid SFHs, rounder, inhabiting the densest of our probed environments, hosting on average the most numerous GC systems, older, consistent with the high-redshift MZR (i.e. consistent with early-quenching), and brighter. The combination of these properties suggests that UDGs of Class A are consistent with a ‘puffed-up dwarf’ formation scenario, while UDGs of Class B seem to be better explained by ‘failed galaxy’ scenarios.

     
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  5. ABSTRACT

    Using early-release data from the JWST, Mowla et al. and Claeyssens et al. recently measured various properties for gravitationally lensed compact sources (‘sparkles’) around the ‘Sparkler’ galaxy at a redshift of 1.378 (a look-back time of 9.1 Gyr). Here, we focus on the Mowla et al. as they were able to break the age-metallicity degeneracy and derive independent ages, metallicities, and extinctions for each source. They identified five metal-rich, old Globular cluster (GC) candidates (with formation ages up to ∼13 Gyr). We examine the age–metallicity relation (AMR) for the GC candidates and other Sparkler compact sources. The Sparkler galaxy, which has a current estimated stellar mass of 109 M⊙, is compared to the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), the disrupted dwarf galaxy Gaia–Enceladus and the Milky Way (MW). The Sparkler galaxy appears to have undergone very rapid chemical enrichment in the first few hundred Myr after formation, with its GC candidates similar to those of the MW’s metal-rich subpopulation. We also compare the Sparkler to theoretical AMRs and formation ages from the E-MOSAICS simulation, finding the early formation age of its GCs to be in some tension with these predictions for MW-like galaxies. The metallicity of the Sparkler’s star-forming regions are more akin to a galaxy of stellar mass ≥ 1010.5 M⊙, that is, at the top end of the expected mass growth over 9.1 Gyr of cosmic time. We conclude that the Sparkler galaxy may represent a progenitor of a MW-like galaxy, even including the ongoing accretion of a satellite galaxy.

     
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  6. ABSTRACT

    The globular cluster (GC) systems of low-mass late-type galaxies, such as NGC 2403, have been poorly studied to date. As a low mass galaxy (M*  = 7 × 109 M⊙), cosmological simulations predict NGC 2403 to contain few, if any, accreted GCs. It is also isolated, with a remarkably undisturbed HI disc. Based on candidates from the literature, Sloan Digital Sky Survey and Hyper Suprime-Cam imaging, we selected several GCs for follow-up spectroscopy using the Keck Cosmic Web Imager. From their radial velocities and other properties, we identify eight bona-fide GCs associated with either the inner halo or the disc of this bulgeless galaxy. A stellar population analysis suggests a wide range of GC ages from shortly after the big bang until the present day. We find all of the old GCs to be metal-poor with [Fe/H] ≤ −1. The age–metallicity relation for the observed GCs suggests that they were formed over many Gyr from gas with a low effective yield, similar to that observed in the SMC. Outflows of enriched material may have contributed to the low yield. With a total system of ∼50 GCs expected, our study is the first step in fully mapping the star cluster history of NGC 2403 in both space and time.

     
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  7. ABSTRACT

    We study the present-day rotational velocity (Vrot) and velocity dispersion (σ) profiles of the globular cluster (GC) systems in a sample of 50 lenticular (S0) galaxies from the E-MOSAICS galaxy formation simulations. We find that $82{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ of the galaxies have GCs that are rotating along the photometric major axis of the galaxy (aligned), while the remaining $18{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ of the galaxies do not (misaligned). This is generally consistent with the observations from the SLUGGS survey. For the aligned galaxies, classified as peaked and outwardly decreasing ($49{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$), flat ($24{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$), and increasing ($27{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$) based on the Vrot/σ profiles out to large radii, we do not find any clear correlation between these present-day Vrot/σ profiles of the GCs and the past merger histories of the S0 galaxies, unlike in previous simulations of galaxy stars. For just over half of the misaligned galaxies, we find that the GC misalignment is the result of a major merger within the last $10\, \mathrm{Gyr}$ so that the ex-situ GCs are misaligned by an angle between 0° (co-rotation) and 180° (counter-rotation), with respect to the in situ GCs, depending on the orbital configuration of the merging galaxies. For the remaining misaligned galaxies, we suggest that the in situ metal-poor GCs, formed at early times, have undergone more frequent kinematic perturbations than the in situ metal-rich GCs. We also find that the GCs accreted early and the in situ GCs are predominantly located within 0.2 virial radii (R200) from the centre of galaxies in 3D phase-space diagrams.

     
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  8. ABSTRACT

    It is clear that within the class of ultra-diffuse galaxies (UDGs), there is an extreme range in the richness of their associated globular cluster (GC) systems. Here, we report the structural properties of five UDGs in the Perseus cluster based on deep Subaru/Hyper Suprime-Cam imaging. Three appear GC-poor and two appear GC-rich. One of our sample, PUDG_R24, appears to be undergoing quenching and is expected to fade into the UDG regime within the next ∼0.5 Gyr. We target this sample with Keck Cosmic Web Imager (KCWI) spectroscopy to investigate differences in their dark matter haloes, as expected from their differing GC content. Our spectroscopy measures both recessional velocities, confirming Perseus cluster membership, and stellar velocity dispersions, to measure dynamical masses within their half-light radius. We supplement our data with that from the literature to examine trends in galaxy parameters with GC system richness. We do not find the correlation between GC numbers and UDG phase space positioning expected if GC-rich UDGs environmentally quench at high redshift. We do find GC-rich UDGs to have higher velocity dispersions than GC-poor UDGs on average, resulting in greater dynamical mass within the half-light radius. This agrees with the first order expectation that GC-rich UDGs have higher halo masses than GC-poor UDGs.

     
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  9. ABSTRACT We present spatially resolved two-dimensional maps and radial trends of the stellar populations and kinematics for a sample of six compact elliptical galaxies (cE) using spectroscopy from the Keck Cosmic Web Imager (KCWI). We recover their star formation histories, finding that all except one of our cEs are old and metal rich, with both age and metallicity decreasing toward their outer radii. We also use the integrated values within one effective radius to study different scaling relations. Comparing our cEs with others from the literature and from simulations we reveal the formation channel that these galaxies might have followed. All our cEs are fast rotators, with relatively high rotation values given their low ellipticites. In general, the properties of our cEs are very similar to those seen in the cores of more massive galaxies, and in particular, to massive compact galaxies. Five out of our six cEs are the result of stripping a more massive (compact or extended) galaxy, and only one cE is compatible with having been formed intrinsically as the low-mass compact object that we see today. These results further confirm that cEs are a mixed-bag of galaxies that can be formed following different formation channels, reporting for the first time an evolutionary link within the realm of compact galaxies (at all stellar masses). 
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  10. ABSTRACT

    The classical globular clusters found in all galaxy types have half-light radii of rh ∼ 2–4 pc, which have been tied to formation in the dense cores of giant molecular clouds. Some old star clusters have larger sizes, and it is unclear if these represent a fundamentally different mode of low-density star cluster formation. We report the discovery of a rare, young ‘faint fuzzy’ star cluster, NGC 247-SC1, on the outskirts of the low-mass spiral galaxy NGC 247 in the nearby Sculptor group, and measure its radial velocity using Keck spectroscopy. We use Hubble Space Telescope imaging to measure the cluster half-light radius of rh ≃ 12 pc and a luminosity of LV ≃ 4 × 105L⊙. We produce a colour–magnitude diagram of cluster stars and compare to theoretical isochrones, finding an age of ≃300 Myr, a metallicity of [Z/H] ∼ −0.6 and an inferred mass of M⋆ ≃ 9 × 104M⊙. The narrow width of blue-loop star magnitudes implies an age spread of ≲50 Myr, while no old red-giant branch stars are found, so SC1 is consistent with hosting a single stellar population, modulo several unexplained bright ‘red straggler’ stars. SC1 appears to be surrounded by tidal debris, at the end of an ∼2 kpc long stellar filament that also hosts two low-mass, low-density clusters of a similar age. We explore a link between the formation of these unusual clusters and an external perturbation of their host galaxy, illuminating a possible channel by which some clusters are born with large sizes.

     
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