Volume 535, November 2011
|Number of page(s)||13|
|Section||Galactic structure, stellar clusters and populations|
|Published online||10 November 2011|
Kinematics in galactic tidal tails
A source of hypervelocity stars?⋆
Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam (AIP), An der Sternwarte 16, 14482 Potsdam, Germany
Received: 14 June 2011
Accepted: 26 September 2011
Context. Recent observations of stars with unusually high radial velocities in the Galactic stellar halo have raised new interest in so-called hypervelocity stars. Traditionally, it is assumed that the velocities of these stars could only come from an interaction with the supermassive black hole in the Galactic center. It was suggested that stars stripped off a disrupted satellite galaxy could reach similar velocities and leave the Galaxy.
Aims. In this work we study the kinematics of tidal debris stars in detail to investigate the implications of the new scenario and the probability that the observed sample of hypervelocity stars could partly develop out of such a galaxy collision.
Methods. We used a suite of N-body simulations following the encounter of a satellite galaxy with its Milky Way-type host galaxy to gather statistics on the properties of stripped-off stars. We study especially the orbital energy distribution of this population.
Results. We quantify the typical pattern in angular and phase space formed by the debris stars. We further develop a simple stripping model to predict the kinematics of stripped-off stars. We show that the distribution of orbital energies in the tidal debris takes a typical form that can be described quite accurately by a simple function. Based on this we develop a method predicting the energy distribution that allows us to evaluate the significance and the implications of highvelocity stars in satellite tidal debris.
Conclusions. Generally the tidal collisions of satellite galaxy produce stars that escape into intragalactic space even if the satellite itself is on a bound orbit. The main parameters determining the maximum energy kick a tidal debris star can get is the initial mass of the satellite and only to a lower extent its orbit. Main contributors to an unbound stellar population created in this way are massive satellites (Msat > 109M⊙). We thus expect intragalactic stars to have a metallicity higher than the surviving satellite population of the Milky Way. However, the probability that the observed HVS population is significantly contaminated by tidal debris stars appears low in light of our results.
Key words: methods: numerical / galaxies: kinematics and dynamics / galaxy: halo / galaxies: dwarf / galaxies: interactions / stars: kinematics and dynamics
Appendices are available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.org
© ESO, 2011
Current usage metrics show cumulative count of Article Views (full-text article views including HTML views, PDF and ePub downloads, according to the available data) and Abstracts Views on Vision4Press platform.
Data correspond to usage on the plateform after 2015. The current usage metrics is available 48-96 hours after online publication and is updated daily on week days.
Initial download of the metrics may take a while.