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Peering through the dust: Precise astrometry in the Galactic mid-plane with the VVV survey

  • L.C. Smith (a1), P.W. Lucas (a1), R.L Smart (a2), H.R.A. Jones (a1), R. Kurtev (a3), J.C. Beamin (a4) (a5), J. Borissova (a3), M. Gromadzki (a3), V. Ivanov (a5), D. Minniti (a6) and D.J. Pinfield (a1)...


Gaia will see little of the Galactic mid-plane and nuclear bulge due to high extinction at optical wavelengths. To study the structure and kinematics of the inner Galaxy we must look to longer wavelengths. The Vista Variables in the Via Lactea (VVV, Minniti et al. 2010) survey currently provides just over 4 years of observations covering approximately 560 square degrees of the Galactic bulge and plane. Typically each source is observed 50–150 times in the Ks band over this period. Using these data we provide relative proper motions for approximately 200 million unique sources down to Ks∼16 with uncertainties approaching 1 mas yr−1. In addition, we fit a solution of the parallactic motion of all sources with significant proper motion and discover a number of new nearby brown dwarfs. These results will allow us to identify faint common proper motion companions to stars with Gaia parallaxes, increasing the number of brown dwarf benchmark objects. Our absolute astrometric calibration precision is currently ∼ 2 mas yr−1, based on PPMXL. The Gaia absolute astrometric reference grid will allow us to precisely anchor our results and measure the streaming motions of stars in the bulge. Finally, we anticipate that the catalogue could provide kinematic distances to the numerous optically invisible high amplitude variable stars that VVV is discovering.


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[1]1Minniti, D., Lucas, P.W., Emerson, J.P., et al., 2010, New Astron., 15, 433


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