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[*] Searching for Bulges at the Far End of the Hubble Sequence
Boeker T., Stanek R., van der Marel R.P.
AJ, 125, 1073-1086, 2002

[*] Citations to this paper in the ADS

We investigate the stellar disk properties of a sample of 19 nearby spiral galaxies with low inclination and late Hubble type (Scd or later). We combine our high-resolution HST I-band observations with existing ground-based optical images to obtain surface brightness profiles that cover a high dynamic range of galactic radius. Most of these galaxies contain a nuclear star cluster, as discussed in a separate paper. The main goal of the present work is to constrain the properties of stellar bulges at these extremely late Hubble types. We find that the surface brightness profiles of the latest-type spirals are complex, with a wide range in shapes. We have sorted our sample in a sequence, starting with ``pure'' disk galaxies (approximately 30% of the sample). These galaxies have exponential stellar disks that extend inwards to within a few tens of pc from the nucleus, where the light from the nuclear cluster starts to dominate. They appear to be truly bulge-less systems. Progressing along the sequence, the galaxies show increasingly prominent deviations from a simple exponential disk model on kpc scales. Traditionally, such deviations have prompted ``bulge-disk'' decompositions. Indeed, the surface brightness profiles of these galaxies are generally well fit by adding a second (exponential) bulge component. However, we find that most surface brightness profiles can be fit equally well (or better) with a single Sersic-type R^{1/n} profile over the entire radial range of the galaxy, without requiring a separate ``bulge'' component. We warn in a general sense against identification of bulges solely on the basis of single-band surface brightness profiles. (abridged)

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Last modified March 16, 2003.
Roeland van der Marel, marel@stsci.edu.
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