“Inside the Belly of the Beast: Globular Clusters, Dwarfs, and the Build-up of Massive Galaxies”
Massive galaxies represent both the beginning and the end point of galaxy evolution. The dense regions where they form are among the earliest to begin star formation at high redshift, and the deep gravitational potentials in which they reside make them a final repository for gas and stars through a continual process of merging and accretion. While much of this history is difficult to disentangle, dense stellar systems such as globular clusters and ultra-compact dwarf galaxies survive to the present day, are relatively easily observed, and encode the early histories of their hosts. These old stellar populations are particularly suited to tracing the build-up of stellar halos. The nearest and best galaxy to study in this way is the cD galaxy, M87 (NGC 4486), which resides at the center of the densest region in the nearby Universe, the core of the Virgo galaxy cluster. Using data from the Next Generation Virgo Cluster Survey, I will discuss how observations of less massive stellar systems (globular clusters and dwarf galaxies) inform us about the assembly history of M87 and other Virgo cluster galaxies.