Tidal stripping as a mechanism for placing globular clusters on wide orbits: The case of MGC1 in M31

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The globular clusters of large spiral galaxies can be divided into two populations: one that formed in situ and one that comprises clusters tidally stripped away from other galaxies. In this paper, we investigate the contribution to the outer globular cluster population in the M31 galaxy through donation of clusters from dwarf galaxies. We test this numerically by comparing the contribution of globular clusters from simulated encounters to the observed M31 globular cluster population. To constrain our simulations, we specifically investigate the outermost globular cluster in the M31 system, MGC1. The remote location of MGC1 favours the idea of it being captured; however, the cluster is devoid of features associated with tidal interactions. Hence, we separate simulations where tidal features are present and where they are hidden. We find that our simulated encounters can place clusters on MGC1-like orbits. In addition, we find that tidal stripping of clusters from dwarf galaxies leaves them on orbits having a range of separations, broadly matching those observed in M31. We find that the specific energies of globular clusters captured by M31 closely match those of the incoming host dwarf galaxies. Furthermore, in our simulations we find an equal number of accreted clusters on co-rotating and counter-rotating orbits within M31 and use this to infer the fraction of clusters that has been accreted. We find that even close in roughly 50 per cent of the clusters are accreted, while this figure increases to over 80 per cent further out.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4134-4149
Number of pages16
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Feb 28

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology


  • Galaxies: individual: M31
  • Galaxies: star clusters: general


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