I. The 84-million star colour–magnitude diagram of the Galactic bulge
1 Departamento de Astronomía y Astrofísica, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Vicuña Mackenna 4860, Casilla 306, Santiago 22, Chile
2 Departamento de Física y Astronomía, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Valparaíso, Ave. Gran Bretaña 1111, Playa Ancha, Casilla 5030, Valparaíso, Chile
3 The Milky Way Millennium Nucleus, Av. Vicuña Mackenna 4860, 782-0436 Macul, Santiago, Chile
4 Vatican Observatory, Vatican City State V-00120, Italy
5 Universidade de São Paulo, IAG, Rua do Matão 1226, Cidade Universitária, 05508-900 São Paulo, Brazil
6 European Southern Observatory, Karl-Schwarzschild-Strasse 2, 85748 Garching b. München, Germany
7 Astronomy Unit, School of Physics and Astronomy, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London, E1 4NS, UK
8 Centre for Astrophysics Research, University of Hertfordshire, College Lane, Hatfield AL10 9AB, UK
Received: 20 April 2012
Accepted: 20 June 2012
Context. The Milky Way (MW) bulge is a fundamental Galactic component for understanding the formation and evolution of galaxies, in particular our own. The ESO Public Survey VISTA Variables in the Vía Láctea is a deep near-IR survey mapping the Galactic bulge and southern plane. Particularly for the bulge area, VVV is covering ~315 deg2. Data taken during 2010 and 2011 covered the entire bulge area in the JHKs bands.
Aims. We used VVV data for the whole bulge area as a single and homogeneous data set to build for the first time a single colour − magnitude diagram (CMD) for the entire Galactic bulge.
Methods. Photometric data in the JHKs bands were combined to produce a single and huge data set containing 173 150 467 sources in the three bands, for the ~315 deg2 covered by VVV in the bulge. Selecting only the data points flagged as stellar, the total number of sources is 84 095 284.
Results. We built the largest colour–magnitude diagrams published up to date, containing 173.1+ million sources for all data points, and more than 84.0 million sources accounting for the stellar sources only. The CMD has a complex shape, mostly owing to the complexity of the stellar population and the effects of extinction and reddening towards the Galactic centre. The red clump (RC) giants are seen double in magnitude at b ~ −8° −10°, while in the inner part (b ~ −3°) they appear to be spreading in colour, or even splitting into a secondary peak. Stellar population models show the predominance of main-sequence and giant stars. The analysis of the outermost bulge area reveals a well-defined sequence of late K and M dwarfs, seen at (J − Ks) ~ 0.7−0.9 mag and Ks ≳ 14 mag.
Conclusions. The interpretation of the CMD yields important information about the MW bulge, showing the fingerprint of its structure and content. We report a well-defined red dwarf sequence in the outermost bulge, which is important for the planetary transit searches of VVV. The double RC in magnitude seen in the outer bulge is the signature of the X-shaped MW bulge, while the spreading of the RC in colour, and even its splitting into a secondary peak, are caused by reddening effects. The region around the Galactic centre is harder to interpret because it is strongly affected by reddening and extinction.
Key words: Galaxy: bulge / Galaxy: center / Galaxy: structure / Galaxy: stellar content / surveys
The VVV survey data are available through the ESO archive http://www.eso.org/sci/archive.html
© ESO, 2012