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Published October 10, 2019 | Published + Submitted
Journal Article Open

Constraints on the Galactic Inner Halo Assembly History from the Age Gradient of Blue Horizontal-branch Stars


We present an analysis of the relative age distribution of the Milky Way halo, based on samples of blue horizontal-branch (BHB) stars obtained from the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System and Galaxy Evolution Explorer photometry, as well a Sloan Digital Sky Survey spectroscopic sample. A machine-learning approach to the selection of BHB stars is developed, using support vector classification, with which we produce chronographic age maps of the Milky Way halo out to 40 kpc from the Galactic center. We identify a characteristic break in the relative age profiles of our BHB samples, corresponding to a Galactocentric radius of R_(GC) ~ 14 kpc. Within the break radius, we find an age gradient of −63.4 ± 8.2 Myr kpc^(−1), which is significantly steeper than obtained by previous studies that did not discern between the inner- and outer-halo regions. The gradient in the relative age profile and the break radius signatures persist after correcting for the influence of metallicity on our spectroscopic calibration sample. We conclude that neither are due to the previously recognized metallicity gradient in the halo, as one passes from the inner-halo to the outer-halo region. Our results are consistent with a dissipational formation of the inner-halo population, involving a few relatively massive progenitor satellites, such as those proposed to account for the assembly of Gaia-Enceladus, which then merged with the inner halo of the Milky Way.

Additional Information

© 2019 The American Astronomical Society. Received 2019 May 8; revised 2019 September 5; accepted 2019 September 6; published 2019 October 14. The authors thank the referee for their comments, which substantially improved our analysis. D.D.W., T.C.B., V.M.P., and P.D. acknowledge partial support for this work from grant PHY 14-30152; Physics Frontier Center/JINA Center for the Evolution of the Elements (JINA-CEE), awarded by the US National Science Foundation. T.C.B. acknowledges partial support from the Leverhulme Trust (UK), which hosted his visiting professorship at the University of Hull during the completion of this study. R.M.S. gratefully acknowledges Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq, process No 436696/2018-5). The Pan-STARRS1 Surveys (PS1) and the PS1 public science archive have been made possible through contributions by the Institute for Astronomy, the University of Hawaii, the Pan-STARRS Project Office, the Max Planck Society and its participating institutes, the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg and the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, The Johns Hopkins University, Durham University, the University of Edinburgh, the Queen's University Belfast, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network Incorporated, the National Central University of Taiwan, the Space Telescope Science Institute, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under grant No. NNX08AR22G issued through the Planetary Science Division of the NASA Science Mission Directorate, the National Science Foundation grant No. AST-1238877, the University of Maryland, Eotvos Lorand University (ELTE), the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Funding for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey IV has been provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, and the Participating Institutions. SDSS-IV acknowledges support and resources from the Center for High-Performance Computing at the University of Utah. The SDSS website is www.sdss.org. SDSS-IV is managed by the Astrophysical Research Consortium for the Participating Institutions of the SDSS Collaboration, including the Brazilian Participation Group, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Carnegie Mellon University, the Chilean Participation Group, the French Participation Group, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, The Johns Hopkins University, Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (IPMU)/University of Tokyo, the Korean Participation Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Leibniz Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam (AIP), Max Planck Institut für Astronomie (MPIA Heidelberg), Max Planck Institut für Astrophysik (MPA Garching), Max Planck Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik (MPE), National Astronomical Observatories of China, New Mexico State University, New York University, University of Notre Dame, Observatário Nacional/MCTI, The Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Shanghai Astronomical Observatory, United Kingdom Participation Group, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, University of Arizona, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Oxford, University of Portsmouth, University of Utah, University of Virginia, University of Washington, University of Wisconsin, Vanderbilt University, and Yale University.

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Submitted - 1909.12910.pdf

Published - Whitten_2019_ApJ_884_67.pdf


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August 19, 2023
August 19, 2023