Journal Article

On the nature of the Milky Way satellites

Yang-Shyang Li, Gabriella De Lucia and Amina Helmi

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 401, issue 3, pages 2036-2052
Published in print January 2010 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online January 2010 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
On the nature of the Milky Way satellites

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We combine a series of high-resolution simulations with semi-analytical galaxy formation models to follow the evolution of a system resembling the Milky Way and its satellites. The semi-analytical model is based on that developed for the Millennium Simulation, and successfully reproduces the properties of galaxies on large scales as well as those of the Milky Way. In this model, we are able to reproduce the luminosity function of the satellites around the Milky Way by preventing cooling in haloes with Vvir < 16.7 km s−1 (i.e. the atomic hydrogen cooling limit) and including the impact of the reionization of the Universe. The physical properties of our model satellites (e.g. mean metallicities, ages, half-light radii and mass-to-light ratios) are in good agreement with the latest observational measurements. We do not find a strong dependence upon the particular implementation of supernova feedback, but a scheme which is more efficient in galaxies embedded in smaller haloes, i.e. shallower potential wells, gives better agreement with the properties of the ultrafaint satellites. Our model predicts that the brightest satellites are associated with the most massive subhaloes, are accreted later (z≲ 1) and have extended star formation histories, with only 1 per cent of their stars made by the end of the reionization. On the other hand, the fainter satellites tend to be accreted early and are dominated by stars with age >10 Gyr, and a few of them formed most of their stars before the reionization was complete. Objects with luminosities comparable to those of the classical MW satellites are associated with dark matter subhaloes with a peak circular velocity ≳10 km s−1, in agreement with the latest constraints.

Keywords: galaxies: dwarf; galaxies: formation; Local Group; cosmology: theory; dark matter

Journal Article.  14147 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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