The mass-to-light ratio of rich star clusters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


We point out a strong time evolution of the mass-to-light conversion factor, η, commonly used to estimate masses of unresolved star clusters from observed cluster spectrophotometric measures. We present a series of gas-dynamical models, coupled with the Cambridge stellar evolution tracks, to compute line-of-sight velocity dispersions and half-light radii weighted by the luminosity. We explore a range of initial conditions, varying in turn the cluster mass and/or density, and the stellar population’s initial mass function. We find that η, and hence the estimated cluster mass, may increase by as much as a factor of three over time-scales of 50 million yr. We apply these results to an hypothetic cluster mass distribution function (d.f.), and show that the d.f. shape may be strongly affected at the low-mass end by this effect. Fitting truncated isothermal (Michie–King) models to the projected light profile leads to over-estimates of the concentration parameter, c, of δ c≈0.3 compared to the same functional fit applied to the projected mass density.


External organisations
  • University of Strasbourg
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology


  • Stellar dynamics, Stars: evolution, Astrophysics - Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics
Original languageUnknown
Pages (from-to)265-269
Number of pages5
Issue number2-4
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Dec 1
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes