Identification of a-colored stars and structure in the halo of the Milky Way from Sloan digital sky survey commissioning data

Brian Yanny, Heidi Jo Newberg, Steve Kent, Sally A. Laurent-Muehleisen, Jeffrey R. Pier, Gordon T. Richards, Chris Stoughton, John E. Anderson, James Annis, J. Brinkmann, Bing Chen, István Csabai, Mamoru Doi, Masataka Fukugita, G. S. Hennessy, Željko Ivezić, G. R. Knapp, Robert Lupton, Jeffrey A. Munn, Thomas NashConstance M. Rockosi, Donald P. Schneider, J. Allyn Smith, Donald G. York

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

294 Scopus citations


A sample of 4208 objects with magnitude 15 < g* < 22 and colors of main-sequence A stars have been selected from 370 deg2 of Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) commissioning observations. The data is from two long, narrow stripes, each with an opening angle of greater than 60°, at Galactic latitudes 36° < |b| < 63° on the celestial equator. Relative photometric calibrations good to 2% and consistent absolute photometry allows this uniform sample to be treated statistically over the large area. An examination of the sample's distribution shows that these stars trace considerable substructure in the halo. Large overdensities of A-colored stars in the north at (l, b, R) = (350°, 50°, 46 kpc) and in the south at (157, -58, 33 kpc) and extending over tens of degrees are present in the halo of the Milky Way. Ivezic et al. have detected the northern structure from a sample of RR Lyrae stars in the SDSS. Using photometry to separate the stars by surface gravity, both structures are shown to contain a sequence of low surface gravity stars consistent with identification as a blue horizontal branch (BHB). Both structures also contain a population of high surface gravity stars 2 mag fainter than the BHB stars, consistent with their identification as blue stragglers (BSs). The majority of the high surface gravity stars in the Galactic halo may be BS stars like these. A population of F stars associated with the A star excess in the southern structure is detected (the F stars in the northern structure at 46 kpc would be too faint for the SDSS to detect). From the numbers of detected BHB stars, lower limits to the implied mass of the structures are 6 × 106 M and 2 × 106 M, although one does not yet know the full spatial extent of the structures. The fact that two such large clumps have been detected in a survey of only 1% of the sky indicates that such structures are not uncommon in the halo. Simple spheroidal parameters are fit to a complete sample of the remaining unclumped BHB stars and yield (at r < 40 kpc) a fit to a halo distribution with flattening (c/a = 0.65 ± 0.2) and a density falloff exponent of a = -3.2 ± 0.3.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)825-841
Number of pages17
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART 1
StatePublished - Sep 10 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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