SCYON Abstract

Received on August 3 2005

Constraining the IMF in Extreme Environments: Detecting Young Low Mass Stars in Unresolved Starbursts

AuthorsMichael R. Meyer and Julia Greissl
AffiliationSteward Observatory, The University of Arizona
Accepted byAstrophysical Journal


We demonstrate the feasibility of detecting directly low mass stars in unresolved super-star clusters with ages < 10 Myr using near-infrared spectroscopy at modest resolution (R ~1000). Such measurements could constrain the ratio of high to low mass stars in these extreme star-forming events, providing a direct test on the universal nature of the initial mass function (IMF) compared to the disk of the Milky Way (Chabrier, 2003). We compute the integrated light of super-star clusters with masses of 106 Msun drawn from the Salpeter (1955) and Chabrier (2003) IMFs for clusters aged 1, 3, and 10 Myr. We combine, for the first time, results from Starburst99 (Leitherer et al. 1999) for the main sequence and post-main sequence population (including nebular emission) with pre-main sequence (PMS) evolutionary models (Siess et al. 2000) for the low mass stars as a function of age.
We show that ~4-12% of the integrated light observed at 2.2 micron comes from low mass PMS stars with late-type stellar absorption features at ages < 3 Myr. This light is discernableusing high signal-to-noise spectra (< 100) at R=1000 placing constraints on the ratio of high to low mass stars contributing to the integrated light of the cluster.