Globular cluster formation with multiple stellar populations from hierarchical star cluster complexes

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Most old globular clusters (GCs) in the Galaxy are observed to have internal chemical abundance spreads in light elements. We discuss a new GC formation scenario based on hierarchical star formation within fractal molecular clouds. In the new scenario, a cluster of bound and unbound star clusters ('star cluster complex', SCC) that have a power-law cluster mass function with a slope (beta) of 2 is first formed from a massive gas clump developed in a dwarf galaxy. Such cluster complexes and beta = 2 are observed and expected from hierarchical star formation. The most massive star cluster ('main cluster'), which is the progenitor of a GC, can accrete gas ejected from asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars initially in the cluster and other low-mass clusters before the clusters are tidally stripped or destroyed to become field stars in the dwarf. The SCC is initially embedded in a giant gas hole created by numerous supernovae of the SCC so that cold gas outside the hole can be accreted on to the main cluster later. New stars formed from the accreted gas have chemical abundances that are different from those of the original SCC. Using hydrodynamical simulations of GC formation based on this scenario, we show that the main cluster with the initial mass as large as [2-5] x 10(5) M-circle dot can accrete more than 10(5) M-circle dot gas from AGB stars of the SCC. We suggest that merging of hierarchical SSCs can play key roles in stellar halo formation around GCs and self-enrichment processes in the early phase of GC formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1857-1873
Number of pages17
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


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