A Peculiar Faint Satellite in the Remote Outer Halo of M31

A. D. Mackey, A. P. Huxor, N. F. Martin, A. M. N. Ferguson, A. Dotter, A. W. McConnachie, R. A. Ibata, M. J. Irwin, G. F. Lewis, C. M. Sakari, N. R. Tanvir, K. A. Venn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We present Hubble Space Telescope imaging of a newly discovered faint stellar system, PAndAS-48, in the outskirts of the M31 halo. Our photometry reveals this object to be comprised of an ancient and very metal-poor stellar population with age >~ 10 Gyr and [Fe/H] lsim -2.3. Our inferred distance modulus (m - M)0 = 24.57 ± 0.11 confirms that PAndAS-48 is most likely a remote M31 satellite with a three-dimensional galactocentric radius of 149^{+19}_{-8} kpc. We observe an apparent spread in color on the upper red giant branch that is larger than the photometric uncertainties should allow, and briefly explore the implications of this. Structurally, PAndAS-48 is diffuse, faint, and moderately flattened, with a half-light radius r_h=26^{+4}_{-3} pc, integrated luminosity MV = -4.8 ± 0.5, and ellipticity \epsilon =0.30^{+0.08}_{-0.15}. On the size-luminosity plane it falls between the extended globular clusters seen in several nearby galaxies and the recently discovered faint dwarf satellites of the Milky Way; however, its characteristics do not allow us to unambiguously classify it as either type of system. If PAndAS-48 is a globular cluster then it is among the most elliptical, isolated, and metal-poor of any seen in the Local Group, extended or otherwise. Conversely, while its properties are generally consistent with those observed for the faint Milky Way dwarfs, it would be a factor of ~2-3 smaller in spatial extent than any known counterpart of comparable luminosity. Based on observations made with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, obtained at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under NASA contract NAS 5-26555. These observations are associated with program GO 12515.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Volume770
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2013

Keywords

  • galaxies: dwarf
  • galaxies: individual: M31
  • globular clusters: general
  • Local Group

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