Recent spectroscopy on the globular cluster (GC) system of M31 with unprecedented precision witnessed a clear bimodality in absorption-line index distributions of old GCs. Such division of extragalactic GCs, so far asserted mainly by photometric color bimodality, has been viewed as the presence of merely two distinct metallicity subgroups within individual galaxies and forms a critical backbone of various galaxy formation theories. Given that spectroscopy is a more detailed probe into stellar population than photometry, the discovery of index bimodality may point to the very existence of dual GC populations. However, here we show that the observed spectroscopic dichotomy of M31 GCs emerges due to the nonlinear nature of metallicity-to-index conversion and thus one does not necessarily have to invoke two separate GC subsystems. We take this as a close analogy to the recent view that metallicity-color nonlinearity is primarily responsible for observed GC color bimodality. We also demonstrate that the metallicity-sensitive magnesium line displays non-negligible metallicity-index nonlinearity and Balmer lines show rather strong nonlinearity. This gives rise to bimodal index distributions, which are routinely interpreted as bimodal metallicity distributions, not considering metallicity-index nonlinearity. Our findings give a new insight into the constitution of M31's GC system, which could change much of the current thought on the formation of GC systems and their host galaxies.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science