Volume 562, February 2014
|Number of page(s)||19|
|Published online||07 February 2014|
1 INAF, Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova, Vicolo dell’Osservatorio 5, 35122 Padova, Italy
2 ESO, Karl-Schwarzschild-Strasse 2, 85748 Garching, Germany
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
3 Excellence Cluster Universe, Boltzmannstr. 2, 85748 Garching, Germany
4 ESO, Ave. Alonso de Cordova 3107, Casilla 19, 19001 Santiago, Chile
5 INAF, Osservatorio Astronomico di Capodimonte, 80126 Napoli, Italy
6 Institute of Astronomy, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB03 0HA, UK
7 Astronomy Unit, School of Physics and Astronomy, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, UK
Received: 27 September 2013
Accepted: 20 December 2013
Context. Outskirts of large galaxies contain important information about galaxy formation and assembly. Resolved star count studies can probe the extremely low surface brightness of the outer halos.
Aims. NGC 253 is a nearly edge-on disk galaxy in the Sculptor group, of which we resolved the halo stars from ground-based images, with the aim of studying its stellar population content, the structure and the overall extent of the halo.
Methods. We use Z and J-band images from the VIRCAM camera mounted on the VISTA telescope to construct the spatially resolved J vs. Z-J color–magnitude diagrams (CMDs). The very deep photometry and the wide area covered allow us to trace the red giant branch (RGB) and asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars that belong to the halo of NGC 253 out to 50 kpc along the galaxy’s minor axis.
Results. We confirm the existence of an extra-planar stellar component of the disk, with a very prominent southern shelf and a symmetrical feature on the north side. The only additional visible substructure is an overdensity in the north-west part of the halo ~28 kpc distant from the plane and extending over 20 kpc parallel with the disk of the galaxy. Our data are not deep enough to distinguish its stellar population from that of the surrounding halo, but the excess of stars above the smooth halo traces the mass of the parent population of ~7.5 × 106M⊙. From stellar counts, we measure the transition from the disk to the halo at a radial distance of about 25 kpc with a clear break in the number density profile. The isodensity contours show that the inner halo is a flattened structure that blends with a more extended, diffuse, rounder outer halo. Such external structure can be traced to the very edge of our image out to 50 kpc from the disk plane. The number density profile of the stars in the stellar halo follows a power law with index −1.6, as a function of radius. The CMD shows a very homogeneous stellar population across the field. By comparing isochrones with the CMD, we conclude that the RGB stars are ~8 Gyr old or more, while the AGB stars trace a population of about 2 × 108 M⊙ formed from ~0.5 to a few Gyr ago. Surprisingly, part of the latter population appears scattered over a wide area. We explore several ideas to explain the origin of this relatively young component in the inner halo of NGC 253.
Key words: galaxies: stellar content / galaxies: structure / galaxies: halos / galaxies: formation / galaxies: individual: NGC 253
Z and J VISTA photometry are only available at the CDS via anonymous ftp to cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr (126.96.36.199) or via http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/qcat?J/A+A/562/A73
© ESO, 2014
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