What is the Milky Way outer halo made of?
1 Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, calle via Lactea s/n, 38205 La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain
2 Universidad de La Laguna, Dpto. Astrofisica, 38206 La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain
3 Institute of Physics, Laboratory of Astrophysics, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Observatoire de Sauverny, 1290 Versoix, Switzerland
4 GEPI, Observatoire de Paris, CNRS, Université de Paris Diderot, 92195 Meudon Cedex, France
5 University of Texas at Austin, McDonald Observatory, TX 78712-1083, USA
6 Instituto Milenio de Astrofisica, Santiago, Chile
7 Departamento de Fisica, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas, Universidad Andres Bello, Av. Fernandez Concha 700, Las Condes, Santiago, Chile
8 Vatican Observatory, V 00120 Vatican City State, Italy
9 Departamento de Astronomia, Universidad de Chile, Camino el Observatorio 1515, Las Condes, Santiago, Casilla 36-D, Chile
10 Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam (AIP) An der Sternwarte 16, 14482 Potsdam, Germany
Received: 1 September 2017
Accepted: 2 October 2017
In a framework where galaxies form hierarchically, extended stellar haloes are predicted to be an ubiquitous feature around Milky Way-like galaxies and to consist mainly of the shredded stellar component of smaller galactic systems. The type of accreted stellar systems are expected to vary according to the specific accretion and merging history of a given galaxy, and so is the fraction of stars formed in situ versus accreted. Analysis of the chemical properties of Milky Way halo stars out to large Galactocentric radii can provide important insights into the properties of the environment in which the stars that contributed to the build-up of different regions of the Milky Way stellar halo formed. In this work we focus on the outer regions of the Milky Way stellar halo, by determining chemical abundances of halo stars with large present-day Galactocentric distances, >15 kpc. The data-set we acquired consists of high resolution HET/HRS, Magellan/MIKE and VLT/UVES spectra for 28 red giant branch stars covering a wide metallicity range, −3.1 ≲ [Fe/H] ≲−0.6. We show that the ratio of α-elements over Fe as a function of [Fe/H] for our sample of outer halo stars is not dissimilar from the pattern shown by MW halo stars from solar neighborhood samples. On the other hand, significant differences appear at [Fe/H] ≳−1.5 when considering chemical abundance ratios such as [Ba/Fe], [Na/Fe], [Ni/Fe], [Eu/Fe], [Ba/Y]. Qualitatively, this type of chemical abundance trends are observed in massive dwarf galaxies, such as Sagittarius and the Large Magellanic Cloud. This appears to suggest a larger contribution in the outer halo of stars formed in an environment with high initial star formation rate and already polluted by asymptotic giant branch stars with respect to inner halo samples.
Key words: stars: abundances / Galaxy: halo / Galaxy: structure / Galaxy: formation / galaxies: interactions
Based on observations obtained with the Hobby-Eberly Telescope, which is a joint project of the University of Texas at Austin, the Pennsylvania State University, Stanford University, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, and Georg-August-Universität Göttingen.
This paper presents data gathered with the Magellan Telescopes at Las Campanas Observatory, Chile.
Tables A.5–A.11 are only available at the CDS via anonymous ftp to cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr (184.108.40.206) or via http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/qcat?J/A+A/608/A145
© ESO, 2017