The first all-sky view of the Milky Way stellar halo with Gaia+2MASS RR Lyrae

G. Iorio, V. Belokurov, D. Erkal, S. E. Koposov, C. Nipoti, F. Fraternali

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We exploit the first Gaia data release to study the properties of the Galactic stellar halo as traced by RR Lyrae. We demonstrate that it is possible to select a pure sample of RR Lyrae using only photometric information available in the Gaia+2MASS catalogue. The final sample contains about 21 600 RR Lyrae covering an unprecedented fraction ( ∼ 60 per cent) of the volume of the Galactic inner halo (R < 28 kpc). We study the morphology of the stellar halo by analysing the RR Lyrae distribution with parametric and non-parametric techniques. Taking advantage of the uniform all-sky coverage, we test halo models more sophisticated than usually considered in the literature, such as those with varying flattening, tilts and/or offset of the halo with respect to the Galactic disc. A consistent picture emerges: the inner halo is well reproduced by a smooth distribution of stars settled on triaxial density ellipsoids. The shortest axis is perpendicular to the Milky Way's disc, while the longest axis forms an angle of ∼70° with the axis connecting the Sun and the Galactic Centre. The elongation along the major axis is mild (p = 1.27), and the vertical flattening is shown to evolve from a squashed state with q ≈ 0.57 in the centre to a more spherical q ≈ 0.75 at the outer edge of our data set. Within the radial range probed, the density profile of the stellar halo is well approximated by a single power law with exponent α = −2.96. We do not find evidence of tilt or offset of the halo with respect to the Galaxy's disc.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Early online date31 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • astro-ph.GA

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