The origin of metal-poor stars on prograde disc orbits in FIRE simulations of Milky Way-mass galaxies
ABSTRACT In hierarchical structure formation, metal-poor stars in and around the Milky Way (MW) originate primarily from mergers of lower mass galaxies. A common expectation is therefore that metal-poor stars should have isotropic, dispersion-dominated orbits that do not correlate strongly with the MW disc. However, recent observations of stars in the MW show that metal-poor ($\rm {[Fe/H]}\lesssim -2$) stars are preferentially on prograde orbits with respect to the disc. Using the Feedback In Realistic Environments 2 (FIRE-2) suite of cosmological zoom-in simulations of MW/M31-mass galaxies, we investigate the prevalence and origin of prograde metal-poor stars. Almost all (11 of 12) of our simulations have metal-poor stars on preferentially prograde orbits today and throughout most of their history: we thus predict that this is a generic feature of MW/M31-mass galaxies. The typical prograde-to-retrograde ratio is ∼2:1, which depends weakly on stellar metallicity at $\rm {[Fe/H]}\lesssim -1$. These trends predicted by our simulations agree well with MW observations. Prograde metal-poor stars originate largely from a single Large/Small Magellanic Cloud (LMC/SMC)-mass gas-rich merger $7\!-\!12.5\, \rm {Gyr}$ ago, which deposited existing metal-poor stars and significant gas on an orbital vector that sparked the formation of and/or shaped the orientation of a long-lived stellar disc, giving more »
Authors:
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Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10278874
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Volume:
505
Issue:
1
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
921 to 938
ISSN:
0035-8711
National Science Foundation
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