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Energy wrinkles and phase-space folds of the last major merger

Belokurov, V, Vasiliev, E, Deason, AJ, Koposov, SE, Fattahi, A, Dillamore, AM, Davies, EY and Grand, RJJ (2022) Energy wrinkles and phase-space folds of the last major merger. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 518 (4). pp. 6200-6215. ISSN 0035-8711

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Relying on the dramatic increase in the number of stars with full 6D phase-space information provided by the Gaia Data Release 3, we resolve the distribution of the stellar halo around the Sun to uncover signatures of incomplete phase-mixing. We show that, for the stars likely belonging to the last massive merger, the (vr, r) distribution contains a series of long and thin chevron-like overdensities. These phase-space substructures have been predicted to emerge following the dissolution of a satellite, when its tidal debris is given time to wind up, thin out, and fold. Such chevrons have been spotted in external galaxies before; here, we report the first detection in our own Milky Way. We also show that the observed angular momentum Lz distribution appears more prograde at high energies, possibly revealing the original orbital angular momentum of the in-falling galaxy. The energy distribution of the debris is strongly asymmetric with a peak at low E – which, we surmise, may be evidence of the dwarf’s rapid sinking – and riddled with wrinkles and bumps. We demonstrate that similar phase-space and (E, Lz) substructures are present in numerical simulations of galaxy interactions, both in bespoke N-body runs and in cosmological hydrodynamical zoom-in suites. The remnant traces of the progenitor’s disruption and the signatures of the on-going phase-mixing discovered here will not only help to constrain the properties of our Galaxy’s most important interaction, but also can be used as a novel tool to map out the Milky Way’s current gravitational potential and its perturbations.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This article has been accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society©: 2022 The Authors Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
Subjects: Q Science > QB Astronomy
Q Science > QC Physics
Divisions: Astrophysics Research Institute
Publisher: Oxford University Press (OUP)
SWORD Depositor: A Symplectic
Date Deposited: 18 Apr 2023 13:31
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2023 13:31
DOI or ID number: 10.1093/mnras/stac3436
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/19371
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