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Title:
Fossil Signatures of Ancient Accretion Events in the Halo
Authors:
Johnston, Kathryn V.; Hernquist, Lars; Bolte, Michael
Publication:
Astrophysical Journal v.465, p.278 (ApJ Homepage)
Publication Date:
07/1996
Origin:
APJ
Astronomy Keywords:
GALAXIES: INTERACTIONS, GALAXY: HALO, METHODS: NUMERICAL
DOI:
10.1086/177418
Bibliographic Code:
1996ApJ...465..278J

Abstract

The role that minor mergers have played in the formation and structure of the Milky Way is still an open question, about which there is much debate. We use numerical simulations to explore the evolution of debris from a tidally disrupted satellite, with the aim of developing a method that can be used to identify and quantify signatures of accretion in a survey of halo stars. For a Milky Way with a spherical halo, we find that debris from minor mergers can remain aligned along great circles throughout the lifetime of the Galaxy. We exploit this result to develop the method of great circle cell counts (GC3), which we test by applying it to artificially constructed halo distributions. Our results suggest that if as few as 1 % of the stars in a halo survey are accreted from the disruption of a single subsystem smaller than the Large Magellanic Cloud, GC3 can recover the great circle associated with this debris. The dispersion in GC3 can also be used to detect the presence of structure characteristic of accretion in distributions containing a much smaller percentage of material accreted from any single satellite.

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