To be published in "Reviews in Frontiers of Modern Astrophysics: From Space Debris to Cosmology" (eds Kabath, Jones and Skarka; publisher Springer Nature) funded by the European Union Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership grant "Per Aspera Ad Astra Simul" 2017-1-CZ01-KA203-035562.


Michael A. Beasley

Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, Calle Vía Láctea s/n, La Laguna, Tenerife, E-38205, Spain

Abstract: Globular clusters are compact, gravitationally bound systems of up to a million stars. The GCs in the Milky Way contain some of the oldest stars known, and provide important clues to the early formation and continuing evolution of our Galaxy. More generally, GCs are associated with galaxies of all types and masses, from low-mass dwarf galaxies to the most massive early-type galaxies which lie in the centres of massive galaxy clusters. GC systems show several properties which connect tightly with properties of their host galaxies. For example, the total mass of GCs in a system scales linearly with the dark matter halo mass of its host galaxy. Numerical simulations are at the point of being able to resolve globular cluster formation within a cosmological framework. Therefore, GCs link a range of scales, from the physics of star formation in turbulent gas clouds, to the large-scale properties of galaxies and their dark matter. In this Chapter we review some of the basic observational approaches for GC systems, some of their key observational properties, and describe how GCs provide important clues to the formation of their parent galaxies.

The paper is in pdf format.