Star cluster formation and evolution in Mrk 930: properties of a metal-poor starburst


Based on observations made with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, obtained at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under NASA contract NAS 5-26555. These observations are associated with program # GO 10902.



We present the analysis of the large population of star clusters in the blue compact galaxy (BCG) Mrk 930. The study has been conducted by means of a photometric analysis of multiband data obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). We have reconstructed the spectral energy distributions of the star clusters and estimated the age, mass and extinction for a representative sample. Similar to previous studies of star clusters in BCGs, we observe a very young cluster population with 70 per cent of the systems formed less than 10 Myr ago. In Mrk 930, the peak in the star cluster age distribution at 4 Myr is corroborated by the presence of Wolf–Rayet spectral features, and by the observed optical and infrared (IR) line ratios [O iii]/Hβ and [Ne iii]/[Ne ii]. The recovered extinction in these very young clusters shows large variations, with a decrease at older ages. It is likely that our analysis is limited to the optically brightest objects (i.e. systems only partially embedded in their natal cocoons; the deeply embedded clusters being undetected). We map the extinction across the galaxy using low-resolution spectra and the Hα-to-Hβ ratio, as obtained from ground-based narrow band imaging. These results are compared with the extinction distribution recovered from the clusters. We find that the mean optical extinction derived in the starburst regions is close to the averaged value observed in the clusters [more than 80 per cent of the systems have E(BV) ≤ 0.2 mag], but locally, do not trace the more extinguished clusters. Previous HST studies of BCGs have revealed a population of young and extremely red super star clusters. We detect a considerable fraction of clusters affected by a red excess also in Mrk 930. The nature of the red excess, which turns up at near-IR wavelengths (I band and longwards), remains unknown. We compare the cluster formation history and the star formation history, the latter derived from the fit of spectral population synthesis models to the spectra. We find a general agreement between the two independently estimated quantities. Using the cluster properties, we perform a study of the host environmental properties. We find that the cluster formation efficiency (the fraction of star formation happening in clusters) is significantly higher, suggesting a key role of the environment for the formation of these massive objects.