Dissolved massive metal-rich globular clusters can cause the range of UV upturn strengths found among early-type galaxies.
Abstract (from CDS):
I discuss a scenario in which the ultraviolet (UV) upturn of giant early-type galaxies (ETGs) is primarily due to helium-rich stellar populations that formed in massive metal-rich globular clusters (GCs), which subsequently dissolved in the strong tidal field in the central regions of the massive host galaxy. These massive GCs are assumed to show UV upturns similar to those observed recently in M87, the central giant elliptical galaxy in the Virgo cluster of galaxies. Data taken from the literature reveal a strong correlation between the strength of the UV upturn and the specific frequency of metal-rich GCs in ETGs. Adopting a Schechter function parameterization of GC mass functions, simulations of long-term dynamical evolution of GC systems show that the observed correlation between UV upturn strength and GC specific frequency can be explained by variations in the characteristic truncation mass Mc such that Mc increases with ETG luminosity in a way that is consistent with observed GC luminosity functions in ETGs. These findings suggest that the nature of the UV upturn in ETGs and the variation of its strength among ETGs are causally related to that of helium-rich populations in massive GCs, rather than intrinsic properties of field stars in massive galactic spheroids. With this in mind, I predict that future studies will find that [N/Fe] decreases with increasing galactocentric radius in massive ETGs, and that such gradients have the largest amplitudes in ETGs with the strongest UV upturns.