The integrated galactic IMF - from star clusters to galaxies
Over the past years observations of young and populous star clusters have shown that the stellar initial mass function (IMF) can be conveniently described by a two-part power-law with an exponent alpha2 = 2.3 for stars more massive than about 0.5 Msol and an exponent of alpha1 = 1.3 for less massive stars. A consensus has also emerged that most, if not all, stars form in stellar groups and star clusters, and that the mass function of these can be described as a power-law (the embedded cluster mass function, ECMF) with an exponent beta ~2. These two results imply that the integrated galactic IMF (IGIMF) for early-type stars cannot be a Salpeter power-law, but that they must have a steeper exponent. An application to star-burst galaxies shows that the IGIMF can become top-heavy. This has important consequences for the distribution of stellar remnants and for the chemo-dynamical and photometric evolution of galaxies.