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Physics and Astronomy


We study the stellar halo colour properties of six nearby massive highly inclined disc galaxies using Hubble space telescope Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide Field Camera 3 observations in both F606W and F814W filters from the GHOSTS (Galaxy Halos, Outer disks, Substructure, Thick disks, and Star clusters) survey. The observed fields probe the stellar outskirts out to projected distances of ∼50–70 kpc from their galactic centre along the minor axis. The 50 per cent completeness levels of the colour–magnitude diagrams are typically at 2 mag below the tip of the red giant branch (RGB). We find that all galaxies have extended stellar haloes out to ∼50 kpc and two out to ∼70 kpc. We determined the halo colour distribution and colour profile for each galaxy using the median colours of stars in the RGB. Within each galaxy, we find variations in the median colours as a function of radius which likely indicates population variations, reflecting that their outskirts were built from several small accreted objects. We find that half of the galaxies (NGC 0891, NGC 4565, and NGC 7814) present a clear negative colour gradient in their haloes, reflecting a declining metallicity; the other have no significant colour or population gradient. In addition, notwithstanding the modest sample size of galaxies, there is no strong correlation between their halo colour/metallicity or gradient with galaxy's properties such as rotational velocity or stellar mass. The diversity in halo colour profiles observed in the GHOSTS galaxies qualitatively supports the predicted galaxy-to-galaxy scatter in halo stellar properties, a consequence of the stochasticity inherent in the assembling history of galaxies.


This article has been accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Copyright: 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

Original Publication Information

Monachesi, Antonela, et al. "The GHOSTS Survey – II. The Diversity of Halo Colour and Metallicity Profiles of Massive Disc Galaxies." 2016. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 457(2): 1419-1446.