Volume 604, August 2017
|Number of page(s)||37|
|Section||Galactic structure, stellar clusters and populations|
|Published online||22 August 2017|
On the kinematic detection of accreted streams in the Gaia era: a cautionary tale
1 GEPI, Observatoire de Paris, PSL Research University, CNRS, Univ Paris Diderot, Sorbonne Paris Cité, place Jules Janssen, 92195 Meudon, France
2 SMC-ISC-CNR and Dipartimento di Fisica, Università “La Sapienza” Roma, Ple. Aldo Moro 2, 00185 Rome, Italy
3 Observatoire de Paris, LERMA, CNRS, PSL Univ., UPMC, Sorbonne Univ., 75014 Paris, France
4 College de France, 11 place Marcelin Berthelot, 75005 Paris, France
Received: 12 September 2016
Accepted: 18 November 2016
The ΛCDM cosmological scenario predicts that our Galaxy should contain hundreds of stellar streams in the solar vicinity, fossil relics of the merging history of the Milky Way and more generally of the hierarchical growth of galaxies. Because of the mixing time scales in the inner Galaxy, it has been claimed that these streams should be difficult to detect in configuration space but can still be identifiable in kinematic-related spaces like the energy/angular momenta spaces, E − Lz and L⊥ − Lz, or spaces of orbital/velocity parameters. By means of high-resolution, dissipationless N-body simulations containing between 25 × 106 and 35 × 106 particles, we model the accretion of a series of up to four 1:10 mass ratio satellites then up to eight 1:100 satellites and search systematically for the signature of accretions in these spaces. The novelty of this work with respect to the majority of those already published is our analysis of fully consistent models, where both the satellite(s) and the Milky Way galaxy are “live” systems, which can react to the interaction and experience kinematical heating, tidal effects and dynamical friction (the latter, a process often neglected in previous studies). We find that, in agreement with previous works, all spaces are rich in substructures, but that, contrary to previous works, the origin of these substructures – accreted or in-situ – cannot be determined for the following reasons. In all spaces considered (1) each satellite provides the origin of several independent over-densities; (2) over-densities of multiple satellites overlap; (3) satellites of different masses can produce similar substructures; (4) the overlap between the in-situ and the accreted population is considerable everywhere; and (5) in-situ stars also form substructures in response to the satellite(s’) accretion. These points are valid even if the search is restricted to kinematically-selected halo stars only. As we are now entering the “Gaia era”, our results warn that extreme caution must be employed before interpreting over-densities in any of those spaces as evidence of relics of accreted satellites. Reconstructing the accretion history of our Galaxy will require a substantial amount of accurate spectroscopic data, that, complemented by the kinematic information, will possibly allow us to (chemically) identify accreted streams and measure their orbital properties.
Key words: Galaxy: disk / Galaxy: halo / Galaxy: formation / Galaxy: evolution / Galaxy: kinematics and dynamics / methods: numerical
© ESO, 2017
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