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  1. ABSTRACT

    We model the stellar abundances and ages of two disrupted dwarf galaxies in the Milky Way stellar halo: Gaia-Sausage Enceladus (GSE) and Wukong/LMS-1. Using a statistically robust likelihood function, we fit one-zone models of galactic chemical evolution with exponential infall histories to both systems, deriving e-folding time-scales of τin = 1.01 ± 0.13 Gyr for GSE and $\tau _\text{in} = 3.08^{+3.19}_{-1.16}$ Gyr for Wukong/LMS-1. GSE formed stars for $\tau _\text{tot} = 5.40^{+0.32}_{-0.31}$ Gyr, sustaining star formation for ∼1.5–2 Gyr after its first infall into the Milky Way ∼10 Gyr ago. Our fit suggests that star formation lasted for $\tau _\text{tot} = 3.36^{+0.55}_{-0.47}$ Gyr in Wukong/LMS-1, though our sample does not contain any age measurements. The differences in evolutionary parameters between the two are qualitatively consistent with trends with stellar mass M⋆ predicted by simulations and semi-analytic models of galaxy formation. Our inferred values of the outflow mass-loading factor reasonably match $\eta \propto M_\star ^{-1/3}$ as predicted by galactic wind models. Our fitting method is based only on Poisson sampling from an evolutionary track and requires no binning of the data. We demonstrate its accuracy by testing against mock data, showing that it accurately recovers the input model across a broad range of sample sizes (20 ≤ N ≤ 2000) and measurement uncertainties (0.01 ≤ σ[α/Fe], σ[Fe/H] ≤ 0.5; $0.02 \le \sigma _{\log _{10}(\text{age})} \le 1$). Due to the generic nature of our derivation, this likelihood function should be applicable to one-zone models of any parametrization and easily extensible to other astrophysical models which predict tracks in some observed space.

     
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  2. Abstract

    The majority of the Milky Way’s stellar halo consists of debris from our galaxy’s last major merger, the Gaia-Sausage-Enceladus (GSE). In the past few years, stars from the GSE have been kinematically and chemically studied in the inner 30 kpc of our galaxy. However, simulations predict that accreted debris could lie at greater distances, forming substructures in the outer halo. Here we derive metallicities and distances using Gaia DR3 XP spectra for an all-sky sample of luminous red giant stars, and map the outer halo with kinematics and metallicities out to 100 kpc. We obtain follow-up spectra of stars in two strong overdensities—including the previously identified outer Virgo Overdensity—and find them to be relatively metal rich and on predominantly retrograde orbits, matching predictions from simulations of the GSE merger. We argue that these are apocentric shells of GSE debris, forming 60–90 kpc counterparts to the 15–20 kpc shells that are known to dominate the inner stellar halo. Extending our search across the sky with literature radial velocities, we find evidence for a coherent stream of retrograde stars encircling the Milky Way from 50 to 100 kpc, in the same plane as the Sagittarius Stream but moving in the opposite direction. These are the first discoveries of distant and structured imprints from the GSE merger, cementing the picture of an inclined and retrograde collision that built up our galaxy’s stellar halo.

     
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  3. Abstract Modern Galactic surveys have revealed an ancient merger that dominates the stellar halo of our galaxy (Gaia–Sausage–Enceladus, GSE). Using chemical abundances and kinematics from the H3 Survey, we identify 5559 halo stars from this merger in the radial range r Gal = 6–60kpc. We forward model the full selection function of H3 to infer the density profile of this accreted component of the stellar halo. We consider a general ellipsoid with principal axes allowed to rotate with respect to the galactocentric axes, coupled with a multiply broken power law. The best-fit model is a triaxial ellipsoid (axes ratios 10:8:7) tilted 25° above the Galactic plane toward the Sun and a doubly broken power law with breaking radii at 12 kpc and 28 kpc. The doubly broken power law resolves a long-standing dichotomy in literature values of the halo breaking radius, being at either ∼15 kpc or ∼30 kpc assuming a singly broken power law. N -body simulations suggest that the breaking radii are connected to apocenter pile-ups of stellar orbits, and so the observed double-break provides new insight into the initial conditions and evolution of the GSE merger. Furthermore, the tilt and triaxiality of the stellar halo could imply that a fraction of the underlying dark matter halo is also tilted and triaxial. This has important implications for dynamical mass modeling of the galaxy as well as direct dark matter detection experiments. 
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  4. Abstract

    Recent observations of the stellar halo have uncovered the debris of an ancient merger, Gaia–Sausage–Enceladus (GSE), estimated to have occurred ≳8 Gyr ago. Follow-up studies have associated GSE with a large-scale tilt in the stellar halo that links two well-known stellar overdensities in diagonally opposing octants of the Galaxy (the Hercules–Aquila Cloud and Virgo Overdensity; HAC and VOD). In this paper, we study the plausibility of such unmixed merger debris persisting over several gigayears in the Galactic halo. We employ the simulated stellar halo from Naidu et al., which reproduces several key properties of the merger remnant, including the large-scale tilt. By integrating the orbits of these simulated stellar halo particles, we show that adoption of a spherical halo potential results in rapid phase mixing of the asymmetry. However, adopting a tilted halo potential preserves the initial asymmetry in the stellar halo for many gigayears. The asymmetry is preserved even when a realistic growing disk is added to the potential. These results suggest that HAC and VOD are long-lived structures that are associated with GSE and that the dark matter halo of the Galaxy is tilted with respect to the disk and aligned in the direction of HAC–VOD. Such halo–disk misalignment is common in modern cosmological simulations. Lastly, we study the relationship between the local and global stellar halo in light of a tilted global halo comprised of highly radial orbits. We find that the local halo offers a dynamically biased view of the global halo due to its displacement from the Galactic center.

     
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  5. Abstract

    We report the discovery of Specter, a disrupted ultrafaint dwarf galaxy revealed by the H3 Spectroscopic Survey. We detected this structure via a pair of comoving metal-poor stars at a distance of 12.5 kpc, and further characterized it with Gaia astrometry and follow-up spectroscopy. Specter is a 25° × 1° stream of stars that is entirely invisible until strict kinematic cuts are applied to remove the Galactic foreground. The spectroscopic members suggest a stellar ageτ≳ 12 Gyr and a mean metallicity[Fe/H]=1.840.18+0.16, with a significant intrinsic metallicity dispersionσ[Fe/H]=0.370.13+0.21. We therefore argue that Specter is the disrupted remnant of an ancient dwarf galaxy. With an integrated luminosityMV≈ −2.6, Specter is by far the least-luminous dwarf galaxy stream known. We estimate that dozens of similar streams are lurking below the detection threshold of current search techniques, and conclude that spectroscopic surveys offer a novel means to identify extremely low surface brightness structures.

     
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