Journal Article

A 10 kpc stellar substructure at the edge of the Large Magellanic Cloud: perturbed outer disc or evidence for tidal stripping?

A. D. Mackey, S. E. Koposov, D. Erkal, V. Belokurov, G. S. Da Costa and F. A. Gómez

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 459, issue 1, pages 239-255
ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online March 2016 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:

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We report the discovery of a substantial stellar overdensity in the periphery of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), found using public imaging from the first year of the Dark Energy Survey. The structure appears to emanate from the edge of the outer LMC disc at a radius ≈13[math]5 due north of its centre, and stretches more than 10 kpc towards the east. It is roughly 1.5 kpc wide and has an integrated V-band luminosity of at least MV = −7.4. The stellar populations in the feature are indistinguishable from those in the outer LMC disc. We attempt to quantify the geometry of the outer disc using simple planar models, and find that only a disc with mild intrinsic ellipticity can simultaneously explain the observed stellar density on the sky and the azimuthal line-of-sight distance profile. We also see possible non-planar behaviour in the outer disc that may reflect a warp and/or flare, as well as deviations that resemble a ring-like structure between [math] from the LMC centre. Based on all these observations, we conclude that our remote, stream-like feature is likely comprised of material that has been stripped from the outskirts of the LMC disc, although we cannot rule out that it represents a transient overdensity in the disc itself. We conduct a simple N-body simulation to show that either type of structure could plausibly arise due to the tidal force of the Milky Way; however, we also recognize that a recent close interaction between the LMC and the Small Magellanic Cloud may be the source of the stripping or perturbation. Finally, we observe evidence for extremely diffuse LMC populations extending to radii of ∼18.5 kpc in the disc plane ([math] on the sky), corroborating previous spectroscopic detections at comparable distances.

Keywords: galaxies: dwarf; Local Group; Magellanic Clouds; galaxies: structure

Journal Article.  15297 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics