Gaia reveals a metal-rich in-situ component of the local stellar halo [GA]

We use the first Gaia data release, combined with RAVE and APOGEE spectroscopic surveys, to investigate the origin of halo stars within <~3 kpc from the Sun. We identify halo stars kinematically, as moving with a relative speed of at least 220 km/s with respect to the local standard of rest. These stars are in general more metal-poor than the disk, but surprisingly, half of our halo sample is comprised of stars with [Fe/H]>-1. The orbital directions of these metal-rich halo stars are preferentially aligned with the disk rotation, in sharp contrast with the isotropic orbital distribution of the more metal-poor halo stars. We find similar properties in the Latte cosmological zoom-in simulation of a Milky Way-like galaxy from the FIRE project. In Latte, metal-rich halo stars formed primarily inside of the solar circle, while lower-metallicity halo stars preferentially formed at larger distances (extending beyond the virial radius). This suggests that metal-rich halo stars in the Solar neighborhood in fact formed in-situ within the Galactic disk rather than having been accreted from satellite systems. These stars, currently on halo-like orbits, therefore have likely undergone substantial radial migration/heating.

Read this paper on arXiv…

A. Bonaca, C. Conroy, A. Wetzel, et. al.
Thu, 20 Apr 17

Comments: 16 pages, 11 figures, submitted to ApJ