skip to main content


Title: High-resolution Chemical Abundances of the Nyx Stream
Abstract

Nyx is a nearby, prograde, and high-eccentricity stellar stream physically contained in the thick disk, but its origin is unknown. Nyx could be the remnant of a disrupted dwarf galaxy, in which case the associated dark matter substructure could affect terrestrial dark matter direct-detection experiments. Alternatively, Nyx could be a signature of the Milky Way’s disk formation and evolution. To determine the origin of Nyx, we obtained high-resolution spectroscopy of 34 Nyx stars using Keck/HIRES and Magellan/MIKE. A differential chemical abundance analysis shows that most Nyx stars reside in a metal-rich ([Fe/H] > −1) high-αcomponent that is chemically indistinguishable from the thick disk. This rules out the originally suggested scenario that Nyx is the remnant of a single massive dwarf galaxy merger. However, we also identify 5 substantially more metal-poor stars ([Fe/H] ∼ −2.0) whose chemical abundances are similar to those of the metal-weak thick disk. It remains unclear how stars that are chemically identical to the thick disk can be on such prograde, high-eccentricity orbits. We suggest two most likely scenarios: that Nyx is the result of an early minor dwarf galaxy merger, or that it is a record of the early spin-up of the Milky Way disk—although neither perfectly reproduces the chemodynamic observations. The most likely formation scenarios suggest that future spectroscopic surveys should find Nyx-like structures outside of the solar neighborhood.

 
more » « less
NSF-PAR ID:
10465315
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal
Volume:
955
Issue:
2
ISSN:
0004-637X
Format(s):
Medium: X Size: Article No. 129
Size(s):
Article No. 129
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. null (Ed.)
    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 rise to a prograde bias for all low-metallicity stars. We find subdominant contributions from in situ stars formed in the host galaxy before this merger, and in some cases, additional massive mergers. We find few clear correlations between any properties of our MW/M31-mass galaxies at z = 0 and the degree of this prograde bias as a result of diverse merger scenarios. 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract We have developed a chemodynamical approach to assign 36,010 metal-poor SkyMapper stars to various Galactic stellar populations. Using two independent techniques (velocity and action space behavior), Gaia EDR3 astrometry, and photometric metallicities, we selected stars with the characteristics of the “metal-weak” thick-disk population by minimizing contamination by the canonical thick disk or other Galactic structures. This sample comprises 7127 stars, spans a metallicity range of −3.50 < [Fe/H] < −0.8, and has a systematic rotational velocity of 〈 V ϕ 〉 = 154 km s −1 that lags that of the thick disk. Orbital eccentricities have intermediate values between typical thick-disk and halo values. The scale length is h R = 2.48 − 0.05 + 0.05 kpc, and the scale height is h Z = 1.68 − 0.15 + 0.19 kpc. The metallicity distribution function is well fit by an exponential with a slope of Δ log N / Δ [ Fe / H ] = 1.13 ± 0.06 . Overall, we find a significant metal-poor component consisting of 261 SkyMapper stars with [Fe/H] < −2.0. While our sample contains only 11 stars with [Fe/H] ≲ −3.0, investigating the JINAbase compilation of metal-poor stars reveals another 18 such stars (five have [Fe/H] < −4.0) that kinematically belong to our sample. These distinct spatial, kinematic, and chemical characteristics strongly suggest that this metal-poor, phase-mixed kinematic sample represents an independent disk component with an accretion origin in which a massive dwarf galaxy radially plunged into the early Galactic disk. Going forward, we propose to call the metal-weak thick-disk population the Atari disk, given its likely accretion origin, and in reference to it sharing space with the Galactic thin and thick disks. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    We use halo dwarf stars with photometrically determined metallicities that are located within 2 kpc of the Sun to identify local halo substructure. The kinematic properties of these stars do not indicate a single, dominant radial merger event (RME). The retrograde Virgo Radial Merger (VRM) component has [Fe/H] = −1.7. A second, nonrotating RME component we name Nereus is identified with [Fe/H] = −2.1 and has similar energy to the VRM. We identify a possible third RME, which we name Cronus, that is corotating with the disk, has lower energy than the VRM, and has [Fe/H] = −1.2. We identify the Nyx Stream in the data. In addition to these substructures, we observe metal-poor halo stars ([Fe/H] ∼ −2.0 andσv∼ 180 km s−1) and a disk/Splash component with lower rotational velocity than the disk and lower metallicity than typically associated with the Splash. An additional excess of halo stars with low velocity and metallicity of [Fe/H] = −1.5 could be associated with the shell of a lower-energy RME or indicate that lower-energy halo stars have higher metallicity. Stars that comprise the “Gaia Sausage” velocity structure are a combination of the components identified in this work.

     
    more » « less
  4. null (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT In this work, we combine spectroscopic information from the SkyMapper survey for Extremely Metal-Poor stars and astrometry from Gaia DR2 to investigate the kinematics of a sample of 475 stars with a metallicity range of $-6.5 \le \rm [Fe/H] \le -2.05$ dex. Exploiting the action map, we identify 16 and 40 stars dynamically consistent with the Gaia Sausage and Gaia Sequoia accretion events, respectively. The most metal poor of these candidates have metallicities of $\rm [Fe/H]=-3.31\, \mathrm{ and }\, -3.74$, respectively, helping to define the low-metallicity tail of the progenitors involved in the accretion events. We also find, consistent with other studies, that ∼21 per cent of the sample have orbits that remain confined to within 3 kpc of the Galactic plane, that is, |Zmax| ≤ 3 kpc. Of particular interest is a subsample (∼11 per cent of the total) of low |Zmax| stars with low eccentricities and prograde motions. The lowest metallicity of these stars has [Fe/H] = –4.30 and the subsample is best interpreted as the very low-metallicity tail of the metal-weak thick disc population. The low |Zmax|, low eccentricity stars with retrograde orbits are likely accreted, while the low |Zmax|, high eccentricity pro- and retrograde stars are plausibly associated with the Gaia Sausage system. We find that a small fraction of our sample (∼4 per cent of the total) is likely escaping from the Galaxy, and postulate that these stars have gained energy from gravitational interactions that occur when infalling dwarf galaxies are tidally disrupted. 
    more » « less
  5. Abstract We present a chemodynamical analysis of 11,562 metal-rich, high-eccentricity halo-like main-sequence stars, which have been referred to as the Splash or Splashed Disk, selected from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope. When divided into two groups, a low-[ α /Fe] population (LAP) and a high-[ α /Fe] population (HAP), based on kinematics and chemistry, we find that they exhibit very distinct properties, indicative of different origins. From a detailed analysis of their orbital inclinations, we suggest that the HAP arises from a large fraction (∼90%) of heated disk stars and a small fraction (∼10%) of in situ stars from a starburst population, likely induced by interaction of the Milky Way with the Gaia-Sausage/Enceladus (GSE) or another early merger. The LAP comprises about half accreted stars from the GSE and half formed by the GSE-induced starburst. Our findings further imply that the Splash stars in our sample originated from at least three different mechanisms: accretion, disk heating, and a merger-induced starburst. 
    more » « less