On the initial mass function and tilt of the fundamental plane of massive early-type galaxies

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Abstract

We investigate the most plausible stellar initial mass function (IMF) and the main origin of the tilt of the fundamental plane (FP) for old, massive early-type galaxies. We consider a sample of 13 bright galaxies of the Coma cluster and combine our results with those obtained from a sample of 57 lens galaxies in the same luminous mass range. We estimate the luminous mass and stellar mass-to-light ratio values of the sample galaxies by fitting their Sloan Digital Sky Survey multiband photometry with composite stellar population models computed with different dust-free, solar-metallicity templates and IMFs. We compare these measurements and those derived from two-component orbit-based dynamical modelling. The photometric and dynamical luminous mass estimates of the galaxies in our sample are consistent, within the errors, if a Salpeter IMF is adopted. On the contrary, with a Kroupa or Chabrier IMF the two luminous mass diagnostics differ at a more than 4σ level. For the massive Coma galaxies, their stellar mass-to-light ratio scales with luminous mass as the corresponding effective quantities are observed to scale on the FP. This indicates that the tilt of the FP is primarily caused by stellar population properties. We conclude that old, massive lens and non-lens early-type galaxies obey the same luminous and dynamical scaling relations, favour a Salpeter IMF, and suggest a stellar population origin for the tilt of the FP. The validity of these results for samples of early-type galaxies with different age and mass properties still remains to be tested.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters
Volume402
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2010

Keywords

  • Galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD
  • Galaxies: structure
  • Galaxy: evolution
  • Galaxy: formation

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