Amuse-field. II. Nucleation of early-type galaxies in the field versus cluster environment
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The optical light profiles of nearby early-type galaxies are known to exhibit a smooth transition from nuclear light deficits to nuclear light excesses with decreasing galaxy mass, with as much as 80% of the galaxies with stellar masses below 1010 M ? hosting a massive nuclear star cluster (NSC). At the same time, while all massive galaxies are thought to harbor nuclear supermassive black holes (SMBHs), observational evidence for SMBHs is slim at the low end of the mass function. Here, we explore the environmental dependence of the nucleation fraction by comparing two homogeneous samples of nearby field versus cluster early-type galaxies with uniform Hubble Space Telescope (HST) coverage. Existing Chandra X-ray Telescope data for both samples yield complementary information on low-level accretion onto nuclear SMBHs. Specifically, we report on dual-band (F475W and F850LP) Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) imaging data for 28 out of the 103 field early-type galaxies that compose the AMUSE-Field Chandra survey, and compare our results against the companion HST and Chandra surveys for a sample of 100 Virgo Cluster early-types (ACS Virgo Cluster and AMUSE-Virgo surveys, respectively). We model the two-dimensional light profiles of the field targets to identify and characterize NSCs, and find a field nucleation fraction of 26% +17%-11% (at the 1s level), consistent with the measured Virgo nucleation fraction across a comparable mass distribution (30%+17%-12%). Coupled with the Chandra result that SMBH activity is higher for the field, our findings indicate that, since the last epoch of star formation, the funneling of gas to the nuclear regions has been inhibited more effectively for Virgo galaxies, arguably via ram pressure stripping.
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