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Title: On the Stability of Tidal Streams in Action Space

In the Gaia era it is increasingly apparent that traditional static, parameterized models are insufficient to describe the mass distribution of our complex, dynamically evolving Milky Way (MW). In this work, we compare different time-evolving and time-independent representations of the gravitational potentials of simulated MW-mass galaxies from the FIRE-2 suite of cosmological-baryonic simulations. Using these potentials, we calculate actions for star particles in tidal streams around three galaxies with varying merger histories at each snapshot from 7 Gyr ago to the present day. We determine the action-space coherence preserved by each model using the Kullback–Leibler divergence to gauge the degree of clustering in actions and the relative stability of the clusters over time. We find that all models produce a clustered action space for simulations with no significant mergers. However, a massive (mass ratio prior to infall more similar than 1:8) interacting galaxy not present in the model will result in mischaracterized orbits for stars most affected by the interaction. The locations of the action space clusters (i.e., the orbits of the stream stars) are only preserved by the time-evolving model, while the time-independent models can lose significant amounts of information as soon as 0.5–1 Gyr ago, even if the system does not undergo a significant merger. Our results imply that reverse-integration of stream orbits in the MW using a fixed potential is likely to give incorrect results if integrated longer than 0.5 Gyr into the past.

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Award ID(s):
2007232 2045928
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal
Medium: X Size: Article No. 2
["Article No. 2"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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