Unearthing foundations of a cosmic cathedral: searching the stars for M33's halo

Robert Cockcroft, Alan W. McConnachie, William E. Harris, Rodrigo Ibata, Mike J. Irwin, Annette M. N. Ferguson, Mark A. Fardal, Arif Babul, Scott C. Chapman, Geraint F. Lewis, Nicolas F. Martin, Thomas H. Puzia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We use data from the Pan-Andromeda Archaeological Survey to search for evidence of an extended halo component belonging to M33 (the Triangulum Galaxy). We identify a population of red giant branch (RGB) stars at large radii from M33's disc whose connection to the recently discovered extended `disc substructure' is ambiguous, and which may represent a `bona fide' halo component. After first correcting for contamination from the Milky Way foreground population and misidentified background galaxies, we average the radial density of RGB candidate stars over circular annuli centred on the galaxy and away from the disc substructure. We find evidence of a low-luminosity, centrally concentrated component that is everywhere in our data fainter than μV ˜ 33 mag arcsec-2. The scalelength of this feature is not well constrained by our data, but it appears to be of the order of rexp ˜ 20 kpc; there is weak evidence to suggest that it is not azimuthally symmetric. Inspection of the overall colour-magnitude diagram for this region that specifically clips out the disc substructure reveals that this residual RGB population is consistent with an old population with a photometric metallicity of around [Fe/H] ˜ -2 dex, but some residual contamination from the disc substructure appears to remain. We discuss the likelihood that our findings represent a bona fide halo in M33, rather than extended emission from the disc substructure. We interpret our findings in terms of an upper limit to M33's halo that is a few per cent of its total luminosity, although its actual luminosity is likely much less.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1248-1262
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: individual: M33
  • galaxies: haloes
  • Local Group
  • galaxies: spiral

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