skip to main content

Title: Possibilities and Limitations of Kinematically Identifying Stars from Accreted Ultra-faint Dwarf Galaxies

The Milky Way has accreted many ultra-faint dwarf galaxies (UFDs), and stars from these galaxies can be found throughout our Galaxy today. Studying these stars provides insight into galaxy formation and early chemical enrichment, but identifying them is difficult. Clustering stellar dynamics in 4D phase space (E,Lz,Jr,Jz) is one method of identifying accreted structure that is currently being utilized in the search for accreted UFDs. We produce 32 simulated stellar halos using particle tagging with the Caterpillar simulation suite and thoroughly test the abilities of different clustering algorithms to recover tidally disrupted UFD remnants. We perform over 10,000 clustering runs, testing seven clustering algorithms, roughly twenty hyperparameter choices per algorithm, and six different types of data sets each with up to 32 simulated samples. Of the seven algorithms, HDBSCAN most consistently balances UFD recovery rates and cluster realness rates. We find that, even in highly idealized cases, the vast majority of clusters found by clustering algorithms do not correspond to real accreted UFD remnants and we can generally only recover 6% of UFDs remnants at best. These results focus exclusively on groups of stars from UFDs, which have weak dynamic signatures compared to the background of other stars. The recoverable UFD remnants are those that accreted recently,zaccretion≲ 0.5. Based on these results, we make recommendations to help guide the search for dynamically linked clusters of UFD stars in observational data. We find that real clusters generally have higher median energy andJr, providing a way to help identify real versus fake clusters. We also recommend incorporating chemical tagging as a way to improve clustering results.

more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal
Page Range / eLocation ID:
Article No. 14
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    R-process enhanced stars with [Eu/Fe] ≥ +0.7 (so-calledr-II stars) are believed to have formed in an extremely neutron-rich environment in which a rare astrophysical event (e.g., a neutron-star merger) occurred. This scenario is supported by the existence of an ultra-faint dwarf galaxy, Reticulum II, where most of the stars are highly enhanced inr-process elements. In this scenario, some small fraction of dwarf galaxies around the Milky Way wererenhanced. When each r-enhanced dwarf galaxy accreted to the Milky Way, it deposited manyr-II stars in the Galactic halo with similar orbital actions. To search for the remnants of ther-enhanced systems, we analyzed the distribution of the orbital actions ofN= 161r-II stars in the solar neighborhood by using Gaia EDR3 data. Since the observational uncertainty is not negligible, we applied a newly developed greedy optimistic clustering method to the orbital actions of our sample stars. We found six clusters ofr-II stars that have similar orbits and chemistry, one of which is a new discovery. Given the apparent phase-mixed orbits of the member stars, we interpret that these clusters are good candidates for remnants of completely disruptedr-enhanced dwarf galaxies that merged with the ancient Milky Way.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    We present a chemodynamical study of the Grus I ultra-faint dwarf galaxy (UFD) from medium-resolution (R∼ 11,000) Magellan/IMACS spectra of its individual member stars. We identify eight confirmed members of Grus I, based on their low metallicities and coherent radial velocities, and four candidate members for which only velocities are derived. In contrast to previous work, we find that Grus I has a very low mean metallicity of 〈[Fe/H]〉 = −2.62 ± 0.11 dex, making it one of the most metal-poor UFDs. Grus I has a systemic radial velocity of −143.5 ± 1.2 km s−1and a velocity dispersion ofσrv=2.50.8+1.3km s−1, which results in a dynamical mass ofM1/2(rh)=84+12×105Mand a mass-to-light ratio ofM/LV=440250+650M/L. Under the assumption of dynamical equilibrium, our analysis confirms that Grus I is a dark-matter-dominated UFD (M/L> 80M/L). However, we do not resolve a metallicity dispersion (σ[Fe/H]< 0.44 dex). Our results indicate that Grus I is a fairly typical UFD with parameters that agree with mass–metallicity and metallicity-luminosity trends for faint galaxies. This agreement suggests that Grus I has not lost an especially significant amount of mass from tidal encounters with the Milky Way, in line with its orbital parameters. Intriguingly, Grus I has among the lowest central densities (ρ1/23.52.1+5.7×107Mkpc−3) of the UFDs that are not known to be tidally disrupting. Models of the formation and evolution of UFDs will need to explain the diversity of these central densities, in addition to any diversity in the outer regions of these relic galaxies.

    more » « less

    Accreted stellar populations are comprised of the remnants of destroyed galaxies, and often dominate the ‘stellar haloes’ of galaxies such as the Milky Way (MW). This ensemble of external contributors is a key indicator of the past assembly history of a galaxy. We introduce a novel statistical method that uses the unbinned metallicity distribution function (MDF) of a stellar population to estimate the mass spectrum of its progenitors. Our model makes use of the well-known mass–metallicity relation of galaxies and assumes Gaussian MDF distributions for individual progenitors: the overall MDF is thus a mixture of MDFs from smaller galaxies. We apply the method to the stellar halo of the MW, as well as the classical MW satellite galaxies. The stellar components of the satellite galaxies have relatively small sample sizes, but we do not find any evidence for accreted populations with L > Lhost/100. We find that the MW stellar halo has N ∼ 1−3 massive progenitors (L ≳ 108L⊙) within 10 kpc, and likely several hundred progenitors in total. We also test our method on simulations of MW-mass haloes, and find that our method is able to recover the true accreted population within a factor of 2. Future data sets will provide MDFs with orders of magnitude more stars, and this method could be a powerful technique to quantify the accreted populations down to the ultra-faint dwarf mass scale for both the MW and its satellites.

    more » « less

    Ultra-faint dwarf galaxies (UFDs) are commonly found in close proximity to the Milky Way and other massive spiral galaxies. As such, their projected stellar ellipticity and extended light distributions are often thought to owe to tidal forces. In this paper, we study the projected stellar ellipticities and faint stellar outskirts of tidally isolated ultra-faints drawn from the ‘Engineering Dwarfs at Galaxy Formation’s Edge’ (EDGE) cosmological simulation suite. Despite their tidal isolation, our simulated dwarfs exhibit a wide range of projected ellipticities (0.03 < ε < 0.85), with many possessing anisotropic extended stellar haloes that mimic tidal tails, but owe instead to late-time accretion of lower mass companions. Furthermore, we find a strong causal relationship between ellipticity and formation time of a UFD, which is robust to a wide variation in the feedback model. We show that the distribution of projected ellipticities in our suite of simulated EDGE dwarfs matches well with a sample of 19 Local Group dwarf galaxies and a sample of 11 isolated dwarf galaxies. Given ellipticity in EDGE arises from an ex-situ accretion origin, the agreement in shape indicates the ellipticities of some observed dwarfs may also originate from a non-tidal scenario. The orbital parameters of these observed dwarfs further support that they are not currently tidally disrupting. If the baryonic content in these galaxies is still tidally intact, then the same may be true for their dark matter content, making these galaxies in our Local Group pristine laboratories for testing dark matter and galaxy formation models.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract In the Λ-Cold Dark Matter model of the universe, galaxies form in part through accreting satellite systems. Previous works have built an understanding of the signatures of these processes contained within galactic stellar halos. This work revisits that picture using seven Milky Way–like galaxies in the Latte suite of FIRE-2 cosmological simulations. The resolution of these simulations allows a comparison of contributions from satellites above M * ≳ 10 × 7 M ⊙ , enabling the analysis of observable properties for disrupted satellites in a fully self-consistent and cosmological context. Our results show that the time of accretion and the stellar mass of an accreted satellite are fundamental parameters that in partnership dictate the resulting spatial distribution, orbital energy, and [ α /Fe]-[Fe/H] compositions of the stellar debris of such mergers at present day. These parameters also govern the resulting dynamical state of an accreted galaxy at z = 0, leading to the expectation that the inner regions of the stellar halo ( R GC ≲ 30 kpc) should contain fully phase-mixed debris from both lower- and higher-mass satellites. In addition, we find that a significant fraction of the lower-mass satellites accreted at early times deposit debris in the outer halo ( R GC > 50 kpc) that are not fully phased-mixed, indicating that they could be identified in kinematic surveys. Our results suggest that, as future surveys become increasingly able to map the outer halo of our Galaxy, they may reveal the remnants of long-dead dwarf galaxies whose counterparts are too faint to be seen in situ in higher-redshift surveys. 
    more » « less