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Physics and Astronomy


We study the properties of the stellar populations in M81’s outermost part, which hereafter we will call the stellar halo, using Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Advanced Camera for Surveys observations of 19 fields from the GHOSTS survey. The observed fields probe the stellar halo out to a projected distance of ∼50 kpc from the galactic center. Each field was observed in both F606W and F814W filters. The 50% completeness levels of the color–magnitude diagrams (CMDs) are typically at 2 mag below the tip of the red giant branch (TRGB). Fields at distances closer than 15 kpc show evidence of disk-dominated populations whereas fields at larger distances are mostly populated by halo stars. The red giant branch (RGB) of the M81’s halo CMDs is well matched with isochrones of ∼10 Gyr and metallicities [Fe/H] ∼ −1.2 dex, suggesting that the dominant stellar population of M81’s halo has a similar age and metallicity. The halo of M81 is characterized by a color distribution of width ∼0.4 mag and an approximately constant median value of (F606W − F814W) ∼ 1 mag measured using stars within the magnitude range 23.7 F814W 25.5. When considering only fields located at galactocentric radius R > 15 kpc, we detect no color gradient in the stellar halo of M81. We place a limit of 0.03 ± 0.11 mag difference between the median color of RGB M81 halo stars at ∼15 and at 50 kpc, corresponding to a metallicity difference of 0.08 ± 0.35 dex over that radial range for an assumed constant age of 10 Gyr. We compare these results with model predictions for the colors of stellar halos formed purely via accretion of satellite galaxies. When we analyze the cosmologically motivated models in the same way as the HST data, we find that they predict no color gradient for the stellar halos, in good agreement with the observations.


Copyright 2013. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

Original Publication Information

Monachesi, Antonela, et al. "Testing Galaxy Formation Models with the GHOSTS Survey: The Color Profile of M81's Stellar Halo." 2013. The Astrophysical Journal 766(2): 15 pp.