Wednesday, May 1, 2013

1304.7826 (Dougal Mackey et al.)

A peculiar faint satellite in the remote outer halo of M31    [PDF]

Dougal Mackey, Avon Huxor, Nicolas Martin, Annette Ferguson, Aaron Dotter, Alan McConnachie, Rodrigo Ibata, Mike Irwin, Geraint Lewis, Charli Sakari, Nial Tanvir, Kim Venn
We present Hubble Space Telescope imaging of a newly-discovered faint stellar system, PAndAS-48, in the outskirts of the M31 halo. Our photometry reveals this object to be comprised of an ancient and very metal-poor stellar population with age > 10 Gyr and [Fe/H] < -2.3. Our inferred distance modulus of 24.57 +/- 0.11 confirms that PAndAS-48 is most likely a remote M31 satellite with a 3D galactocentric radius of 149 (+19 -8) kpc. We observe an apparent spread in color on the upper red giant branch that is larger than the photometric uncertainties should allow, and briefly explore the implications of this. Structurally, PAndAS-48 is diffuse, faint, and moderately flattened, with a half-light radius rh = 26 (+4 -3) pc, integrated luminosity Mv = -4.8 +/- 0.5, and ellipticity = 0.30 (+0.08 -0.15). On the size-luminosity plane it falls between the extended globular clusters seen in several nearby galaxies, and the recently-discovered faint dwarf satellites of the Milky Way; however, its characteristics do not allow us to unambiguously class it as either type of system. If PAndAS-48 is a globular cluster then it is the among the most elliptical, isolated, and metal-poor of any seen in the Local Group, extended or otherwise. Conversely, while its properties are generally consistent with those observed for the faint Milky Way dwarfs, it would be a factor ~2-3 smaller in spatial extent than any known counterpart of comparable luminosity.
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