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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Structure and Dynamics of Andromeda's Stellar Disk

  • Author(s): Dorman, Claire E.
  • Advisor(s): GuhaThakurta, Puragra
  • et al.
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License

Lambda cold dark matter (ΛCDM) cosmology predicts that the disks of Milky Way-mass galaxies should have undergone at least one merger with a large (mass ratio 1:10) satellite in the last several Gyr. However, the stellar disk in the solar neighborhood of the Milky Way is too thin and dynamically cold to have experienced such an impact. The dynamics of the nearby Andromeda galaxy can serve as a second data point, and help us understand whether the Milky Way may simply have had an unusually quiescent merger history, or whether ΛCDM theory needs to be revisited. Over the last few years, we have carried out a detailed study of the resolved stellar populations in the disk of the Andromeda galaxy using data from two surveys: six-filter Hubble Space Telescope photometry from the recently-completed Panchromatic Hubble Andromeda Treasury (PHAT) survey, and radial velocities derived from Keck/DEIMOS optical spectra ob- tained as part of the Spectroscopic and Photometric Landscape of Andromeda’s Stellar 0Halo (SPLASH) program. These detailed, multidimensional data sets allow us to decouple the structural subcomponents and characterize them individually. We find that an old, dynamically hot (velocity dispersion 150 km/s) RGB population extends out to 20 kpc (the edge of the visible disk) but has a disk-like surface brightness profile and

luminosity function. This population may have originated in the disk but been kicked out subsequently in impacts with satellite galaxies. We also study the kinematics of the disk as a function of the age of stellar tracers, and find a direct correlation between age and velocity dispersion, indicating that Andromeda has undergone a continuous heating or disk settling process throughout its lifetime. Overall, both the velocity dispersion of Andromeda’s disk and the slope of the velocity dispersion vs. stellar age curve are several times those of the Milky Way’s, suggesting a more active merger history more in line with ΛCDM cosmological predictions.

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