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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: May 2010

The star formation history in the Andromeda halo


I present the preliminary results of a program to measure the star formation history in the halo of the Andromeda galaxy. Using the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) on the Hubble Space Telescope, we obtained the deepest optical images of the sky to date, in a field on the southeast minor axis of Andromeda, 51′ (11 kpc) from the nucleus. The resulting color-magnitude diagram (CMD) contains approximately 300,000 stars and extends more than 1.5 mag below the main sequence turnoff, with 50% completeness at V = 30.7 mag. We interpret this CMD using comparisons to ACS observations of five Galactic globular clusters through the same filters, and through χ2-fitting to a finely-spaced grid of calibrated stellar population models. We find evidence for a major (∼30%) intermediate-age (6–8 Gyr) metal-rich ([Fe/H]> −0.5) population in the Andromeda halo, along with a significant old metal-poor population akin to that in the Milky Way halo. The large spread in ages suggests that the Andromeda halo formed as a result of a more violent merging history than that in our own Milky Way.


One of the primary quests of observational astronomy is understanding the formation history of galaxies. An impediment to this research is the relative paucity of galaxies in the Local Group, which contains no giant ellipticals, and only two giant spirals-our own Milky Way and Andromeda. Fortunately, Andromeda (M31, NGC 224) is well situated for studying the formation of giant spiral halos, due to its proximity (770 kpc; Freedman & Madore 1990), small foreground reddening (EB-V = 0.08 mag; Schlegel, Finkbeiner, & Davis 1990), and low inclination (i ≍ 12.50°; de Vaucouleurs 1958).

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