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© 2015. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved. Most field stars will have encountered the highest stellar density and hence the largest number of interactions in their birth environment. Yet the stellar dynamics during this crucial phase are poorly understood. Here we analyze the radial velocities measured for 152 out of 380 observed stars in the 2-6 Myr old star cluster IC 348 as part of the SDSS-III APOGEE. The radial velocity distribution of these stars is fitted with one or two Gaussians, convolved with the measurement uncertainties including binary orbital motions. Including a second Gaussian improves the fit; the high-velocity outliers that are best fit by this second component may either (1) be contaminants from the nearby Perseus OB2 association, (2) be a halo of ejected or dispersing stars from IC 348, or (3) reflect that IC 348 has not relaxed to a Gaussian velocity distribution. We measure a velocity dispersion for IC 348 of 0.72 ± 0.07 km s-1(or 0.64 ± 0.08 km s-1if two Gaussians are fitted), which implies a supervirial state, unless the gas contributes more to the gravitational potential than expected. No evidence is found for a dependence of this velocity dispersion on distance from the cluster center or stellar mass. We also find that stars with lower extinction (in the front of the cloud) tend to be redshifted compared with stars with somewhat higher extinction (toward the back of the cloud). This data suggest that the stars in IC 348 are converging along the line of sight. We show that this correlation between radial velocity and extinction is unlikely to be spuriously caused by the small cluster rotation of 0.024 ± 0.013 km s-1arcmin-1or by correlations between the radial velocities of neighboring stars. This signature, if confirmed, will be the first detection of line of sight convergence in a star cluster. Possible scenarios for reconciling this convergence with IC 348's observed supervirial state include: (a) the cluster is fluctuating around a new virial equilibrium after a recent disruption due to gas expulsion or a merger event, or (b) the population we identify as IC 348 results from the chance alignment of two sub-clusters converging along the line of sight. Additional measurements of tangential and radial velocities in IC 348 will be important for clarifying the dynamics of this region and informing models of the formation and evolution of star clusters. The radial velocities analyzed in this paper have been made available online.

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Journal article


Astrophysical Journal

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