Volume 642, October 2020
|Number of page(s)||6|
|Section||Letters to the Editor|
|Published online||22 October 2020|
Letter to the Editor
The messy merger of a large satellite and a Milky Way-like galaxy⋆
Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, University of Groningen, Landleven 12, 9747 AD Groningen, The Netherlands
Accepted: 17 September 2020
Aims. About 10 billion years ago the Milky Way merged with a massive satellite, Gaia-Enceladus. To gain insight into the properties of its debris we analyse in detail a suite of simulations that includes an experiment that produces a good match to the kinematics of nearby halo stars inferred from Gaia data.
Methods. We compare the kinematic distributions of stellar particles in the simulations and study the distribution of debris in orbital angular momentum, eccentricity, and energy, and its relation to the mass loss history of the simulated satellite.
Results. We confirm that Gaia-Enceladus probably fell in on a retrograde, 30° inclination orbit. We find that while 75% of the debris in our preferred simulation has high eccentricity (> 0.8), roughly 9% has eccentricity lower than 0.6. Star particles lost early have large retrograde motions, and a subset of these have low eccentricity. Such stars would be expected to have lower metallicities as they stem from the outskirts of the satellite, and hence naively they could be confused with debris associated with a separate system. These considerations seem to apply to some of the stars from the postulated Sequoia galaxy.
Conclusions. When a massive disc galaxy undergoes a merger event, it leaves behind debris with a complex phase-space structure, a wide range of orbital properties, and a range of chemical abundances. Observationally, this results in substructures with very different properties, which can be misinterpreted as implying independent progeny. Detailed chemical abundances of large samples of stars and tailored hydrodynamical simulations are critical to resolving such conundrums.
Key words: Galaxy: formation / Galaxy: halo / Galaxy: kinematics and dynamics / solar neighborhood / galaxies: interactions
Movies associated to Fig. 4 are available at https://www.aanda.org
© ESO 2020
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