The Fornax3D project: Planetary nebulae catalogue and independent distance measurements to Fornax cluster galaxies

Spriggs, T. W.; Sarzi, M.; Galán-de Anta, P. M.; Napiwotzki, R.; Viaene, S.; Nedelchev, B.; Coccato, L.; Corsini, E. M.; Fahrion, K.; Falcón-Barroso, J. et al.
Bibliographical reference

Astronomy and Astrophysics

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Extragalactic planetary nebulae (PNe) offer a way to determine the distance to their host galaxies thanks to the nearly universal shape of the planetary nebulae luminosity function (PNLF). Accurate PNe distance measurements rely on obtaining well-sampled PNLFs and the number of observed PNe scales with the encompassed stellar mass. This means either disposing of wide-field observations or focusing on the bright central regions of galaxies. In this work we take this second approach and conduct a census of the PNe population in the central regions of galaxies in the Fornax cluster, using VLT/MUSE data for the early-type galaxies observed over the course of the Fornax3D survey. Using such integral-field spectroscopic observations to carefully separate the nebular emission from the stellar continuum, we isolated [O III] 5007 Å sources of interest, filtered out unresolved impostor sources or kinematic outliers, and present a catalogue of 1350 unique PNe sources across 21 early-type galaxies, which includes their positions, [O III] 5007 Å line magnitudes, and line-of-sight velocities. Using the PNe catalogued within each galaxy, we present independently derived distance estimates based on the fit to the entire observed PNLF observed while carefully accounting for the PNe detection incompleteness. With these individual measurements, we arrive at an average distance to the Fornax cluster itself of 19.86 ± 0.32 Mpc (μPNLF = 31.49 ± 0.04 mag). Our PNLF distance measurements agree well with previous distances based on surface brightness fluctuations, finding no significant systematic offsets between the two methods as otherwise reported in previous studies.

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