The Structure of the Young Star Cluster NGC 6231. II. Structure, Formation, and Fate

Michael A. Kuhn (1,2), Konstantin V. Getman (3), Eric D. Feigelson (3,1), Alison Sills (4), Mariusz Gromadzki (5,1,2), Nicolas Medina (1,2), Jordanka Borissova (1,2), Radostin Kurtev (1,2)

(1) Millennium Institute of Astrophysics; (2) Universidad de Valparaiso; (3) Pennsylvania State University; (4) McMaster University; (5) Warsaw University Astronomical Observatory

The young cluster NGC 6231 (stellar ages ~2-7 Myr) is observed shortly after star-formation activity has ceased. Using the catalog of 2148 probable cluster members obtained from Chandra, VVV, and optical surveys (Paper I), we examine the cluster's spatial structure and dynamical state. The spatial distribution of stars is remarkably well fit by an isothermal sphere with moderate elongation, while other commonly used models like Plummer spheres, multivariate normal distributions, or power-law models are poor fits. The cluster has a core radius of $1.2\pm0.1$ pc and a central density of ~200 stars pc$^{-3}$. The distribution of stars is mildly mass segregated. However, there is no radial stratification of the stars by age. Although most of the stars belong to a single cluster, a small subcluster of stars is found superimposed on the main cluster, and there are clumpy non-isotropic distributions of stars outside ~4 core radii. When the size, mass, and age of NGC 6231 are compared to other young star clusters and subclusters in nearby active star-forming regions, it lies at the high-mass end of the distribution but along the same trend line. This could result from similar formation processes, possibly hierarchical cluster assembly. We argue that NGC 6231 has expanded from its initial size but that it remains gravitationally bound.

Reference: AJ, 154, 214
Status: Manuscript has been accepted


Comments: 2 tables and 14 figures