White dwarfs in the building blocks of the Galactic spheroid
1 Department of Astrophysics/IMAPP, Radboud University, PO Box 9010, 6500 GL Nijmegen, The Netherlands
2 Institute for Astronomy, KU Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 200D, 3001 Leuven, Belgium
3 Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam, AIP, An der Sternwarte 16, 14482 Potsdam, Germany
4 Leiden Observatory, Leiden University, PO Box 9513, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
5 Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, University of Groningen, PO Box 800, 9700 AV Groningen, The Netherlands
Received: 10 January 2017
Accepted: 26 July 2017
Aims. The Galactic halo likely grew over time in part by assembling smaller galaxies, the so-called building blocks (BBs). We investigate if the properties of these BBs are reflected in the halo white dwarf (WD) population in the solar neighbourhood. Furthermore, we compute the halo WD luminosity functions (WDLFs for four major BBs of five cosmologically motivated stellar haloes). We compare the sum of these to the observed WDLF of the Galactic halo, derived from selected halo WDs in the SuperCOSMOS Sky Survey, aiming to investigate if they match better than the WDLFs predicted by simpler models.
Methods. We couple the SeBa binary population synthesis model to the Munich-Groningen semi-analytic galaxy formation model applied to the high-resolution Aquarius dark matter simulations. Although the semi-analytic model assumes an instantaneous recycling approximation, we model the evolution of zero-age main sequence stars to WDs, taking age and metallicity variations of the population into account. To be consistent with the observed stellar halo mass density in the solar neighbourhood (ρ0), we simulate the mass in WDs corresponding to this density, assuming a Chabrier initial mass function (IMF) and a binary fraction of 50%. We also normalize our WDLFs to ρ0.
Results. Although the majority of halo stars are old and metal-poor and therefore the WDs in the different BBs have similar properties (including present-day luminosity), we find in our models that the WDs originating from BBs that have young and/or metal-rich stars can be distinguished from WDs that were born in other BBs. In practice, however, it will be hard to prove that these WDs really originate from different BBs, as the variations in the halo WD population due to binary WD mergers result in similar effects. The five joined stellar halo WD populations that we modelled result in WDLFs that are very similar to each other. We find that simple models with a Kroupa or Salpeter IMF fit the observed luminosity function slightly better, since the Chabrier IMF is more top-heavy, although this result is dependent on our choice of ρ0.
Key words: Galaxy: halo / stars: luminosity function, mass function / white dwarfs / binaries: close
© ESO, 2017