The Large Magellanic Cloud stellar content with SMASH: I. Assessing the stability of the Magellanic spiral arms
The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is the closest and most studied example of an irregular galaxy. Among its principal defining morphological features, its off-centred bar and single spiral arm stand out, defining a whole family of galaxies known as the Magellanic spirals (Sm). These structures are thought to be triggered by tidal interactions and possibly maintained via gas accretion. However, it is still unknown whether they are long-lived stable structures. In this work, by combining photometry that reaches down to the oldest main sequence turn-off in the colour-magnitude diagrams (CMD, up to a distance of ∼4.4 kpc from the LMC centre) from the SMASH survey and CMD fitting techniques, we find compelling evidence supporting the long-term stability of the LMC spiral arm, dating the origin of this structure to more than 2 Gyr ago. The evidence suggests that the close encounter between the LMC and the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) that produced the gaseous Magellanic Stream and its Leading Arm also triggered the formation of the LMC’s spiral arm. Given the mass difference between the Clouds and the notable consequences of this interaction, we can speculate that this should have been one of their closest encounters. These results set important more »
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Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10190450
Journal Name:
Astronomy & Astrophysics
Volume:
639
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
L3
ISSN:
0004-6361
National Science Foundation
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1. ABSTRACT We use the SMASH survey to obtain unprecedented deep photometry reaching down to the oldest main-sequence turn-offs in the colour–magnitude diagrams (CMDs) of the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) and quantitatively derive its star formation history (SFH) using CMD fitting techniques. We identify five distinctive peaks of star formation in the last 3.5 Gyr, at ∼3, ∼2, ∼1.1, ∼0.45 Gyr ago, and one presently. We compare these to the SFH of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), finding unequivocal synchronicity, with both galaxies displaying similar periods of enhanced star formation over the past ∼3.5 Gyr. The parallelism between their SFHs indicates that tidal interactions between the MCs have recurrently played an important role in their evolution for at least the last ∼3.5 Gyr, tidally truncating the SMC and shaping the LMC’s spiral arm. We show, for the first time, an SMC–LMC correlated SFH at recent times in which enhancements of star formation are localized in the northern spiral arm of the LMC, and globally across the SMC. These novel findings should be used to constrain not only the orbital history of the MCs but also how star formation should be treated in simulations.
2. Abstract The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) and the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) are the closest massive satellite galaxies of the Milky Way. They are probably on their first passage on an infalling orbit towards our Galaxy 1 and trace the continuing dynamics of the Local Group 2 . Recent measurements of a high mass for the LMC ( M halo  ≈ 10 11.1–11.4   M ⊙ ) 3–6 imply that the LMC should host a Magellanic Corona: a collisionally ionized, warm-hot gaseous halo at the virial temperature (10 5.3–5.5  K) initially extending out to the virial radius (100–130 kiloparsecs (kpc)). Such a corona would have shaped the formation of the Magellanic Stream 7 , a tidal gas structure extending over 200° across the sky 2,8,9 that is bringing in metal-poor gas to the Milky Way 10 . Here we show evidence for this Magellanic Corona with a potential direct detection in highly ionized oxygen (O +5 ) and indirectly by means of triply ionized carbon and silicon, seen in ultraviolet (UV) absorption towards background quasars. We find that the Magellanic Corona is part of a pervasive multiphase Magellanic circumgalactic medium (CGM) seen in many ionization states with a declining projected radial profilemore »
3. ABSTRACT

The highly-substructured outskirts of the Magellanic Clouds provide ideal locations for studying the complex interaction history between both Clouds and the Milky Way (MW). In this paper, we investigate the origin of a >20° long arm-like feature in the northern outskirts of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) using data from the Magellanic Edges Survey (MagES) and Gaia EDR3. We find that the arm has a similar geometry and metallicity to the nearby outer LMC disc, indicating that it is comprised of perturbed disc material. Whilst the azimuthal velocity and velocity dispersions along the arm are consistent with those in the outer LMC, the in-plane radial velocity and out-of-plane vertical velocity are significantly perturbed from equilibrium disc kinematics. We compare these observations to a new suite of dynamical models of the Magellanic/MW system, which describe the LMC as a collection of tracer particles within a rigid potential, and the SMC as a rigid Hernquist potential. Our models indicate the tidal force of the MW during the LMC’s infall is likely responsible for the observed increasing out-of-plane velocity along the arm. Our models also suggest close LMC/SMC interactions within the past Gyr, particularly the SMC’s pericentric passage ∼150 Myr ago and amore »

4. ABSTRACT

The structure of the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) is very complex, in particular in the periphery that suffers more from the interactions with the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). A wealth of observational evidence has been accumulated revealing tidal tails and bridges made up of gas, stars, and star clusters. Nevertheless, a full picture of the SMC outskirts is only recently starting to emerge with a 6D phase-space map plus age and metallicity using star clusters as tracers. In this work, we continue our analysis of another outer region of the SMC, the so-called West Halo, and combined it with the previously analysed Northern Bridge. We use both structures to define the Bridge and Counter-bridge trailing and leading tidal tails. These two structures are moving away from each other, roughly in the SMC–LMC direction. The West Halo form a ring around the SMC inner regions that goes up to the background of the Northern Bridge shaping an extended layer of the Counter-bridge. Four old Bridge clusters were identified at distances larger than 8 kpc from the SMC centre moving towards the LMC, which is consistent with the SMC–LMC closest distance of 7.5 kpc when the Magellanic Bridge was formed about 150Myr ago;more »

5. Abstract

The Magellanic Stream is sculpted by its infall through the Milky Way’s circumgalactic medium, but the rates and directions of mass, momentum, and energy exchange through the stream-halo interface are relative unknowns critical for determining the origin and fate of the Stream. Complementary to large-scale simulations of LMC-SMC interactions, we apply new insights derived from idealized, high-resolutioncloud-crushingand radiative turbulent mixing layer simulations to the Leading Arm and Trailing Stream. Contrary to classical expectations of fast cloud breakup, we predict that the Leading Arm and much of the Trailing Stream should be surviving infall and even gaining mass due to strong radiative cooling. Provided a sufficiently supersonic tidal swing-out from the Clouds, the present-day Leading Arm could be a series of high-density clumps in the cooling tail behind the progenitor cloud. We back up our analytic framework with a suite of converged wind-tunnel simulations, finding that previous results on cloud survival and mass growth can be extended to high Mach number ($$) flows with a modified drag time$tdrag∝1+$and longer growth time. We also simulate the Trailing Stream; we find that the growth time is long (approximately gigayears) compared to the infall time,more »