Hubble space telescope snapshot search for planetary nebulae in globular clusters of the local group

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Single stars in ancient globular clusters (GCs) are believed incapable of producing planetary nebulae (PNs), because their post-asymptotic-giant-branch evolutionary timescales are slower than the dissipation timescales for PNs. Nevertheless, four PNs are known in Galactic GCs. Their existence likely requires more exotic evolutionary channels, including stellar mergers and common-envelope binary interactions. I carried out a snapshot imaging search with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) for PNs in bright Local Group GCs outside the Milky Way. I used a filter covering the 5007 Å nebular emission line of [O iii], and another one in the nearby continuum, to image 66 GCs. Inclusion of archival HSTframes brought the total number of extragalactic GCs imaged at 5007 Å to 75, whose total luminosity slightly exceeds that of the entire Galactic GC system. I found no convincing PNs in these clusters, aside from one PN in a young M31 cluster misclassified as a GC, and two PNs at such large angular separations from an M31 GC that membership is doubtful. In a ground-based spectroscopic survey of 274 old GCs in M31, Jacoby et al. found three candidate PNs. My HSTimages of one of them suggest that the [O iii] emission actually arises from ambient interstellar medium rather than a PN; for the other two candidates, there are broadband archival UV HSTimages that show bright, blue point sources that are probably the PNs. In a literature search, I also identified five further PN candidates lying near old GCs in M31, for which follow-up observations are necessary to confirm their membership. The rates of incidence of PNs are similar, and small but nonzero, throughout the GCs of the Local Group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number132
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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