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  1. Abstract

    The third data release (DR3) of Gaia has provided a fivefold increase in the number of radial velocity measurements of stars, as well as a stark improvement in parallax and proper motion measurements. To help with studies that seek to test models and interpret Gaia DR3, we present nine Gaia synthetic surveys, based on three solar positions in three Milky Way-mass galaxies of theLattesuite of theFire-2 cosmological simulations. These synthetic surveys match the selection function, radial velocity measurements, and photometry of Gaia DR3, adapting the code baseAnanke, previously used to match the Gaia DR2 release by Sanderson et al. The synthetic surveys are publicly available and can be found at Similarly to the previous release ofAnanke, these surveys are based on cosmological simulations and thus are able to model nonequilibrium dynamical effects, making them a useful tool in testing and interpreting Gaia DR3.

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    Understanding the evolution of satellite galaxies of the Milky Way (MW) and M31 requires modelling their orbital histories across cosmic time. Many works that model satellite orbits incorrectly assume or approximate that the host halo gravitational potential is fixed in time and is spherically symmetric or axisymmetric. We rigorously benchmark the accuracy of such models against the FIRE-2 cosmological baryonic simulations of MW/M31-mass haloes. When a typical surviving satellite fell in ($3.4\!-\!9.7\, \rm {Gyr}$ ago), the host halo mass and radius were typically 26–86 per cent of their values today, respectively. Most of this mass growth of the host occurred at small distances, $r\lesssim 50\, \rm {kpc}$, opposite to dark matter only simulations, which experience almost no growth at small radii. We fit a near-exact axisymmetric gravitational potential to each host at z = 0 and backward integrate the orbits of satellites in this static potential, comparing against the true orbit histories in the simulations. Orbital energy and angular momentum are not well conserved throughout an orbital history, varying by 25 per cent from their current values already $1.6\!-\!4.7\, \rm {Gyr}$ ago. Most orbital properties are minimally biased, ≲10 per cent, when averaged across the satellite population as a whole. However, for a single satellite, the uncertainties are large: recent orbital properties, like the most recent pericentre distance, typically are ≈20 per cent uncertain, while earlier events, like the minimum pericentre or the infall time, are ≈40–80 per cent uncertain. Furthermore, these biases and uncertainties are lower limits, given that we use near-exact host mass profiles at z = 0.

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    Observational studies are finding stars believed to be relics of the earliest stages of hierarchical mass assembly of the Milky Way (i.e. proto-galaxy). In this work, we contextualize these findings by studying the masses, ages, spatial distributions, morphology, kinematics, and chemical compositions of proto-galaxy populations from the 13 Milky Way (MW)-mass galaxies from the FIRE-2 cosmological zoom-in simulations. Our findings indicate that proto-Milky Way populations: (i) can have a stellar mass range between 1 × 108 < M⋆ < 2 × 1010 [M⊙], a virial mass range between 3 × 1010 < M⋆ < 6 × 1011 [M⊙], and be as young as 8 ≲ Age ≲ 12.8 [Gyr] (1 ≲ z ≲ 6); (ii) are pre-dominantly centrally concentrated, with $\sim 50~{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ of the stars contained within 5–10 kpc; (iii) on average show weak but systematic net rotation in the plane of the host’s disc at z = 0 (i.e. 0.25 ≲ 〈κ/κdisc〉 ≲ 0.8); (iv) present [α/Fe]-[Fe/H] compositions that overlap with the metal-poor tail of the host’s old disc; and (v) tend to assemble slightly earlier in Local Group-like environments than in systems in isolation. Interestingly, we find that $\sim 60~{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ of the proto-Milky Way galaxies are comprised by 1 dominant system (1/5 ≲M⋆/M⋆, proto-MilkyWay≲ 4/5) and 4–5 lower mass systems (M⋆/M⋆, proto-MilkyWay≲ 1/10); the other $\sim 40~{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ are comprised by 2 dominant systems and 3–4 lower mass systems. These massive/dominant proto-Milky Way fragments can be distinguished from the lower mass ones in chemical-kinematic samples, but appear (qualitatively) indistinguishable from one another. Our results could help observational studies disentangle if the Milky Way formed from one or two dominant systems.

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  4. Abstract

    The Galactic bulge is critical to our understanding of the Milky Way. However, due to the lack of reliable stellar distances, the structure and kinematics of the bulge/bar beyond the Galactic center have remained largely unexplored. Here, we present a method to measure distances of luminous red giants using a period–amplitude–luminosity relation anchored to the Large Magellanic Cloud, with random uncertainties of 10%–15% and systematic errors below 1%–2%. We apply this method to data from the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment to measure distances to 190,302 stars in the Galactic bulge and beyond out to 20 kpc. Using this sample, we measure a distance to the Galactic center ofR0= 8108 ± 106stat± 93syspc, consistent with direct measurements of stars orbiting Sgr A*. We cross-match our distance catalog with Gaia DR3 and use the subset of 39,566 overlapping stars to provide the first constraints on the Milky Way’s velocity field (VR,Vϕ,Vz) beyond the Galactic center. We show that theVRquadrupole from the bar’s near side is reflected with respect to the Galactic center, indicating that the bar is bisymmetric and aligned with the inner disk. We also find that the vertical heightVZmap has no major structure in the region of the Galactic bulge, which is inconsistent with a current episode of bar buckling. Finally, we demonstrate withN-body simulations that distance uncertainty plays a factor in the alignment of the major and kinematic axes of the bar, necessitating caution when interpreting results for distant stars.

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    A variety of observational campaigns seek to test dark matter models by measuring dark matter subhaloes at low masses. Despite their predicted lack of stars, these subhaloes may be detectable through gravitational lensing or via their gravitational perturbations on stellar streams. To set measurable expectations for subhalo populations within Lambda cold dark matter, we examine 11 Milky Way (MW)-mass haloes from the FIRE-2 baryonic simulations, quantifying the counts and orbital fluxes for subhaloes with properties relevant to stellar stream interactions: masses down to $10^{6}\, \text{M}_\odot$, distances ≲50 kpc of the galactic centre, across z = 0 − 1 (tlookback = 0–8 Gyr). We provide fits to our results and their dependence on subhalo mass, distance, and lookback time, for use in (semi)analytical models. A typical MW-mass halo contains ≈16 subhaloes $\gt 10^{7}\, \text{M}_\odot$ (≈1 subhalo $\gt 10^{8}\, \text{M}_\odot$) within 50 kpc at z ≈ 0. We compare our results with dark matter-only versions of the same simulations: because they lack a central galaxy potential, they overpredict subhalo counts by 2–10×, more so at smaller distances. Subhalo counts around a given MW-mass galaxy declined over time, being ≈10× higher at z = 1 than at z ≈ 0. Subhaloes have nearly isotropic orbital velocity distributions at z ≈ 0. Across our simulations, we also identified 4 analogues of Large Magellanic Cloud satellite passages; these analogues enhance subhalo counts by 1.4–2.1 times, significantly increasing the expected subhalo population around the MW today. Our results imply an interaction rate of ∼5 per Gyr for a stream like GD-1, sufficient to make subhalo–stream interactions a promising method of measuring dark subhaloes.

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  6. Abstract

    We analyse stellar streams in action-angle coordinates combined with recent local direct acceleration measurements to provide joint constraints on the potential of our galaxy. Our stream analysis uses the Kullback–Leibler divergence with a likelihood analysis based on the two-point correlation function. We provide joint constraints from pulsar accelerations and stellar streams for local and global parameters that describe the potential of the Milky Way (MW). Our goal is to build an “acceleration ladder,” where direct acceleration measurements that are currently limited in dynamic range are combined with indirect techniques that can access a much larger volume of the MW. To constrain the MW potential with stellar streams, we consider the Palomar 5, Orphan, Nyx, Helmi, and GD1 streams. Of the potential models that we have considered here, the preferred potential for the streams is a two-component Staeckel potential. We also compare the vertical accelerations from stellar streams and pulsar timing, defining the functionf(z)=α1pulsarzΦz, where Φ is the MW potential determined from stellar streams andα1 pulsarzis the vertical acceleration determined from pulsar timing observations. Our analysis indicates that the Oort limit determined from streams is consistently (regardless of the choice of potential) lower than that determined from pulsar timing observations. The calibration we have derived here may be used to correct the estimate of the acceleration from stellar streams.

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  7. Abstract

    The shape and orientation of dark matter (DM) halos are sensitive to the microphysics of the DM particles, yet in many mass models, the symmetry axes of the Milky Way’s DM halo are often assumed to be aligned with the symmetry axes of the stellar disk. This is well motivated for the inner DM halo, but not for the outer halo. We use zoomed-in cosmological baryonic simulations from the Latte suite of FIRE-2 Milky Way–mass galaxies to explore the evolution of the DM halo’s orientation with radius and time, with or without a major merger with a Large Magellanic Cloud analog, and when varying the DM model. In three of the four cold DM halos we examine, the orientation of the halo minor axis diverges from the stellar disk vector by more than 20° beyond about 30 galactocentric kpc, reaching a maximum of 30°–90°, depending on the individual halo’s formation history. In identical simulations using a model of self-interacting DM withσ= 1 cm2g−1, the halo remains aligned with the stellar disk out to ∼200–400 kpc. Interactions with massive satellites (M≳ 4 × 1010Mat pericenter;M≳ 3.3 × 1010Mat infall) affect the orientation of the halo significantly, aligning the halo’s major axis with the satellite galaxy from the disk to the virial radius. The relative orientation of the halo and disk beyond 30 kpc is a potential diagnostic of self-interacting DM, if the effects of massive satellites can be accounted for.

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  8. Abstract Observations of the Milky Way’s low- α disk show that several element abundances correlate with age at fixed metallicity, with unique slopes and small scatters around the age–[X/Fe] relations. In this study, we turn to simulations to explore the age–[X/Fe] relations for the elements C, N, O, Mg, Si, S, and Ca that are traced in a FIRE-2 cosmological zoom-in simulation of a Milky Way–like galaxy, m12i, and understand what physical conditions give rise to the observed age–[X/Fe] trends. We first explore the distributions of mono-age populations in their birth and current locations, [Fe/H], and [X/Fe], and find evidence for inside-out radial growth for stars with ages <7 Gyr. We then examine the age–[X/Fe] relations across m12i’s disk and find that the direction of the trends agrees with observations, apart from C, O, and Ca, with remarkably small intrinsic scatters, σ int (0.01 − 0.04 dex). This σ int measured in the simulations is also metallicity dependent, with σ int ≈ 0.025 dex at [Fe/H] = −0.25 dex versus σ int ≈ 0.015 dex at [Fe/H] = 0 dex, and a similar metallicity dependence is seen in the GALAH survey for the elements in common. Additionally, we find that σ int is higher in the inner galaxy, where stars are older and formed in less chemically homogeneous environments. The age–[X/Fe] relations and the small scatter around them indicate that simulations capture similar chemical enrichment variance as observed in the Milky Way, arising from stars sharing similar element abundances at a given birth place and time. 
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  9. 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. 
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    The orbits of satellite galaxies encode rich information about their histories. We investigate the orbital dynamics and histories of satellite galaxies around Milky Way (MW)-mass host galaxies using the FIRE-2 cosmological simulations, which, as previous works have shown, produce satellite mass functions and spatial distributions that broadly agree with observations. We first examine trends in orbital dynamics at z = 0, including total velocity, specific angular momentum, and specific total energy: the time of infall into the MW-mass halo primarily determines these orbital properties. We then examine orbital histories, focusing on the lookback time of first infall into a host halo and pericentre distances, times, and counts. Roughly 37 per cent of galaxies with $M_{\rm star}\lesssim 10^7\, {\rm M}_{\odot }$ were ‘pre-processed’ as a satellite in a lower-mass group, typically $\approx 2.7\, {\rm Gyr}$ before falling into the MW-mass halo. Half of all satellites at z = 0 experienced multiple pericentres about their MW-mass host. Remarkably, for most (67 per cent) of these satellites, their most recent pericentre was not their minimum pericentre: the minimum typically was ∼40 per cent smaller and occurred $\sim 6\, {\rm Gyr}$ earlier. These satellites with growing pericentres appear to have multiple origins: for about half, their specific angular momentum gradually increased over time, while for the other half, most rapidly increased near their first apocentre, suggesting that a combination of a time-dependent MW-mass halo potential and dynamical perturbations in the outer halo caused these satellites’ pericentres to grow. Our results highlight the limitations of idealized, static orbit modelling, especially for pericentre histories.

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