Structure of Brightest Cluster Galaxies and Intracluster Light

M. Kluge, B. Neureiter, A. Riffeser, R. Bender, C. Goessl, U. Hopp, M. Schmidt, C. Ries, N. Brosch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Observations of 170 local (z ≲ 0.08) galaxy clusters in the northern hemisphere have been obtained with the Wendelstein Telescope Wide Field Imager (WWFI). We correct for systematic effects such as point-spread function broadening, foreground star contamination, relative bias offsets, and charge persistence. Background inhomogeneities induced by scattered light are reduced down to ΔSB > 31 g′ mag arcsec-2 by large dithering and subtraction of night-sky flats. Residual background inhomogeneities brighter than SBσ < 27.6 g′ mag arcsec-2 caused by galactic cirrus are detected in front of 23% of the clusters. However, the large field of view allows discrimination between accretion signatures and galactic cirrus. We detect accretion signatures in the form of tidal streams in 22%, shells in 9.4%, and multiple nuclei in 47% of the brightest cluster galaxies (BCGs) and find two BCGs in 7% of the clusters. We measure semimajor-axis surface brightness profiles of the BCGs and their surrounding intracluster light (ICL) down to a limiting surface brightness of SB = 30 g′ mag arcsec-2. The spatial resolution in the inner regions is increased by combining the WWFI light profiles with those that we measured from archival Hubble Space Telescope images or deconvolved WWFI images. We find that 71% of the BCG+ICL systems have surface brightness (SB) profiles that are well described by a single Sérsic function, whereas 29% require a double Sérsic function to obtain a good fit. We find that BCGs have scaling relations that differ markedly from those of normal ellipticals, likely due to their indistinguishable embedding in the ICL.

Original languageEnglish
Article number43
JournalAstrophysical Journal, Supplement Series
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2020


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