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Reconstructing the Accretion History of the Galactic Halo Using Stellar Chemical Abundance Ratio Distributions

  • Duane M. Lee (a1), Kathryn V. Johnston (a2), Bodhisattva Sen (a3) and Will Jessop (a3)

Abstract

In this study we tested the prospects of using 2D chemical abundance ratio distributions (CARDs) found in stars of the stellar halo to determine its formation history. First, we used simulated data from eleven “MW-like” halos to generate satellite template sets of 2D CARDs of accreted dwarf satellites which are comprised of accreted dwarfs from various mass regimes and epochs of accretion. Next, we randomly drew samples of ~ 103–4 mock observations of stellar chemical abundance ratios ([α/Fe], [Fe/H]) from those eleven halos to generate samples of the underlying densities for our CARDs to be compared to our templates in our analysis. Finally, we used the expectation-maximization algorithm to derive accretion histories in relation to the satellite template set (STS) used and the sample size. For certain STS used we typically can identify the relative mass contributions of all accreted satellites to within a factor of 2. We also find that this method is particularly sensitive to older accretion events involving low-luminous dwarfs e.g. ultra-faint dwarfs — precisely those events that are too ancient to be seen by phase-space studies of stars and too faint to be seen by high-z studies of the early Universe. Since our results only exploit two chemical dimensions and near-future surveys promise to provide ~ 6–9 dimensions, we conclude that these new high-resolution spectroscopic surveys of the stellar halo will allow us (given the development of new CARD–generating dwarf models) to recover the luminosity function of infalling dwarf galaxies — and the detailed accretion history of the halo — across cosmic time.

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References

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