NGC 6397 :: new preprint
The White Dwarf Cooling Sequence of NGC6397
Authors: Brad M. S. Hansen, Jay Anderson, James Brewer, Aaron Dotter, Greg. G. Fahlman, Jarrod Hurley, Jason Kalirai, Ivan King, David Reitzel, Harvey B. Richer, R.Michael Rich, Michael M. Shara, Peter B. Stetson
Comments: 56 pages, 30 figures
We present the results of a deep Hubble Space Telescope (HST) exposure of the nearby globular cluster NGC6397, focussing attention on the cluster’s white dwarf cooling sequence. This sequence is shown to extend over 5 magnitudes in depth, with an apparent cutoff at magnitude F814W=27.6. We demonstrate, using both artificial star tests and the detectability of background galaxies at fainter magnitudes, that the cutoff is real and represents the truncation of the white dwarf luminosity function in this cluster. We perform a detailed comparison between cooling models and the observed distribution of white dwarfs in colour and magnitude, taking into account uncertainties in distance, extinction, white dwarf mass, progenitor lifetimes, binarity and cooling model uncertainties. After marginalising over these variables, we obtain values for the cluster distance modulus and age of \mu_0 = 12.02 \pm 0.06 and T_c = 11.47 \pm 0.47Gyr (95% confidence limits). Our inferred distance and white dwarf initial-final mass relations are in good agreement with other independent determinations, and the cluster age is consistent with, but more precise than, prior determinations made using the main sequence turnoff method. In particular, within the context of the currently accepted \Lambda CDM cosmological model, this age places the formation of NGC6397 at a redshift z=3, at a time when the cosmological star formation rate was approaching its peak.