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  1. null (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT We investigate thin and thick stellar disc formation in Milky Way-mass galaxies using 12 FIRE-2 cosmological zoom-in simulations. All simulated galaxies experience an early period of bursty star formation that transitions to a late-time steady phase of near-constant star formation. Stars formed during the late-time steady phase have more circular orbits and thin-disc-like morphology at z = 0, while stars born during the bursty phase have more radial orbits and thick-disc structure. The median age of thick-disc stars at z = 0 correlates strongly with this transition time. We also find that galaxies with an earlier transition from bursty to steady star formation have a higher thin-disc fractions at z = 0. Three of our systems have minor mergers with Large Magellanic Cloud-size satellites during the thin-disc phase. These mergers trigger short starbursts but do not destroy the thin disc nor alter broad trends between the star formation transition time and thin/thick-disc properties. If our simulations are representative of the Universe, then stellar archaeological studies of the Milky Way (or M31) provide a window into past star formation modes in the Galaxy. Current age estimates of the Galactic thick disc would suggest that the Milky Way transitioned from bursty to steady phasemore »∼6.5 Gyr ago; prior to that time the Milky Way likely lacked a recognizable thin disc.« less
  2. ABSTRACT A promising route for revealing the existence of dark matter structures on mass scales smaller than the faintest galaxies is through their effect on strong gravitational lenses. We examine the role of local, lens-proximate clustering in boosting the lensing probability relative to contributions from substructure and unclustered line-of-sight (LOS) haloes. Using two cosmological simulations that can resolve halo masses of Mhalo ≃ 109 M⊙ (in a simulation box of length $L_{\rm box}{\sim }100\, {\rm Mpc}$) and 107 M⊙ ($L_{\rm box}\sim 20\, {\rm Mpc}$), we demonstrate that clustering in the vicinity of the lens host produces a clear enhancement relative to an assumption of unclustered haloes that persists to $\gt 20\, R_{\rm vir}$. This enhancement exceeds estimates that use a two-halo term to account for clustering, particularly within $2-5\, R_{\rm vir}$. We provide an analytic expression for this excess, clustered contribution. We find that local clustering boosts the expected count of 109 M⊙ perturbing haloes by $\sim \! 35{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ compared to substructure alone, a result that will significantly enhance expected signals for low-redshift (zl ≃ 0.2) lenses, where substructure contributes substantially compared to LOS haloes. We also find that the orientation of the lens with respect to the line ofmore »sight (e.g. whether the line of sight passes through the major axis of the lens) can also have a significant effect on the lensing signal, boosting counts by an additional $\sim 50{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ compared to a random orientations. This could be important if discovered lenses are biased to be oriented along their principal axis.« less
  3. null (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT We explore the origin of stellar metallicity gradients in simulated and observed dwarf galaxies. We use FIRE-2 cosmological baryonic zoom-in simulations of 26 isolated galaxies as well as existing observational data for 10 Local Group dwarf galaxies. Our simulated galaxies have stellar masses between 105.5 and 108.6 M⊙. Whilst gas-phase metallicty gradients are generally weak in our simulated galaxies, we find that stellar metallicity gradients are common, with central regions tending to be more metal-rich than the outer parts. The strength of the gradient is correlated with galaxy-wide median stellar age, such that galaxies with younger stellar populations have flatter gradients. Stellar metallicty gradients are set by two competing processes: (1) the steady ‘puffing’ of old, metal-poor stars by feedback-driven potential fluctuations and (2) the accretion of extended, metal-rich gas at late times, which fuels late-time metal-rich star formation. If recent star formation dominates, then extended, metal-rich star formation washes out pre-existing gradients from the ‘puffing’ process. We use published results from ten Local Group dwarf galaxies to show that a similar relationship between age and stellar metallicity-gradient strength exists among real dwarfs. This suggests that observed stellar metallicity gradients may be driven largely by the baryon/feedback cycle rather thanmore »by external environmental effects.« less
  4. ABSTRACT We analyse the cold dark matter density profiles of 54 galaxy haloes simulated with Feedback In Realistic Environments (FIRE)-2 galaxy formation physics, each resolved within $0.5{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ of the halo virial radius. These haloes contain galaxies with masses that range from ultrafaint dwarfs ($M_\star \simeq 10^{4.5}\, \mathrm{M}_{\odot }$) to the largest spirals ($M_\star \simeq 10^{11}\, \mathrm{M}_{\odot }$) and have density profiles that are both cored and cuspy. We characterize our results using a new, analytic density profile that extends the standard two-parameter Einasto form to allow for a pronounced constant density core in the resolved innermost radius. With one additional core-radius parameter, rc, this three-parameter core-Einasto profile is able to characterize our feedback-impacted dark matter haloes more accurately than other three-parameter profiles proposed in the literature. To enable comparisons with observations, we provide fitting functions for rc and other profile parameters as a function of both M⋆ and M⋆/Mhalo. In agreement with past studies, we find that dark matter core formation is most efficient at the characteristic stellar-to-halo mass ratio M⋆/Mhalo ≃ 5 × 10−3, or $M_{\star } \sim 10^9 \, \mathrm{M}_{\odot }$, with cores that are roughly the size of the galaxy half-light radius, rc ≃ 1−5 kpc. Furthermore,more »we find no evidence for core formation at radii $\gtrsim 100\ \rm pc$ in galaxies with M⋆/Mhalo < 5 × 10−4 or $M_\star \lesssim 10^6 \, \mathrm{M}_{\odot }$. For Milky Way-size galaxies, baryonic contraction often makes haloes significantly more concentrated and dense at the stellar half-light radius than DMO runs. However, even at the Milky Way scale, FIRE-2 galaxy formation still produces small dark matter cores of ≃ 0.5−2 kpc in size. Recent evidence for a ∼2 kpc core in the Milky Way’s dark matter halo is consistent with this expectation.« less
  5. ABSTRACT We study stellar-halo formation using six Milky-Way-mass galaxies in FIRE-2 cosmological zoom simulations. We find that $5{-}40{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ of the outer (50–300 kpc) stellar halo in each system consists of in-situ stars that were born in outflows from the main galaxy. Outflow stars originate from gas accelerated by superbubble winds, which can be compressed, cool, and form co-moving stars. The majority of these stars remain bound to the halo and fall back with orbital properties similar to the rest of the stellar halo at z = 0. In the outer halo, outflow stars are more spatially homogeneous, metal-rich, and alpha-element-enhanced than the accreted stellar halo. At the solar location, up to $\sim \!10 {{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ of our kinematically identified halo stars were born in outflows; the fraction rises to as high as $\sim \!40{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ for the most metal-rich local halo stars ([Fe/H] >−0.5). Such stars can be retrograde and create features similar to the recently discovered Milky Way ‘Splash’ in phase space. We conclude that the Milky Way stellar halo could contain local counterparts to stars that are observed to form in molecular outflows in distant galaxies. Searches for such a population may provide amore »new, near-field approach to constraining feedback and outflow physics. A stellar halo contribution from outflows is a phase-reversal of the classic halo formation scenario of Eggen, Lynden-Bell & Sandange, who suggested that halo stars formed in rapidly infalling gas clouds. Stellar outflows may be observable in direct imaging of external galaxies and could provide a source for metal-rich, extreme-velocity stars in the Milky Way.« less
  6. ABSTRACT We derive a new mass estimator that relies on internal proper motion measurements of dispersion-supported stellar systems, one that is distinct and complementary to existing estimators for line-of-sight velocities. Starting with the spherical Jeans equation, we show that there exists a radius where the mass enclosed depends only on the projected tangential velocity dispersion, assuming that the anisotropy profile slowly varies. This is well-approximated at the radius where the log-slope of the stellar tracer profile is −2: r−2. The associated mass is $M(r_{-2}) = 2 G^{-1} \langle \sigma _{\mathcal {T}}^{2}\rangle ^{*} r_{-2}$ and the circular velocity is $V^{2}({r_{-2}}) = 2\langle \sigma _{\mathcal {T}}^{2}\rangle ^{*}$. For a Plummer profile r−2 ≃ 4Re/5. Importantly, r−2 is smaller than the characteristic radius for line-of-sight velocities derived by Wolf et al. Together, the two estimators can constrain the mass profiles of dispersion-supported galaxies. We illustrate its applicability using published proper motion measurements of dwarf galaxies Draco and Sculptor, and find that they are consistent with inhabiting cuspy NFW subhaloes of the kind predicted in CDM but we cannot rule out a core. We test our combined mass estimators against previously published, non-spherical cosmological dwarf galaxy simulations done in both cold dark matter (CDM; naturallymore »cuspy profile) and self-interacting dark matter (SIDM; cored profile). For CDM, the estimates for the dynamic rotation curves are found to be accurate to $10\rm { per\, cent}$ while SIDM are accurate to $15\rm { per\, cent}$. Unfortunately, this level of accuracy is not good enough to measure slopes at the level required to distinguish between cusps and cores of the type predicted in viable SIDM models without stronger priors. However, we find that this provides good enough accuracy to distinguish between the normalization differences predicted at small radii (r ≃ r−2 < rcore) for interesting SIDM models. As the number of galaxies with internal proper motions increases, mass estimators of this kind will enable valuable constraints on SIDM and CDM models.« less