The ghost of sagittarius and lumps in the halo of the Milky Way

Heidi Jo Newberg, Brian Yanny, Connie Rockosi, Eva K. Grebel, Hans Walter Rix, Jon Brinkmann, Istvan Csabai, Greg Hennessy, Robert B. Hindsley, Rodrigo Ibata, Zeljko Ivezić, Don Lamb, E. Thomas Nash, Michael Odenkirchen, Heather A. Rave, D. P. Schneider, J. Allyn Smith, Andrea Stolte, Donald G. York

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

636 Scopus citations


We identify new structures in the halo of the Milky Way from positions, colors, and magnitudes of five million stars detected in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Most of these stars are within 1°.26 of the celestial equator. We present color-magnitude diagrams (CMDs) for stars in two previously discovered, tidally disrupted structures. The CMDs and turnoff colors are consistent with those of the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy, as had been predicted. In one direction, we are even able to detect a clump of red stars, similar to that of the Sagittarius dwarf, from stars spread across 110 deg2 of sky. Focusing on stars with the colors of F turnoff objects, we identify at least five additional overdensities of stars. Four of these may be pieces of the same halo structure, which would cover a region of the sky at least 40° in diameter, at a distance of 11 kpc from the Sun (18 kpc from the center of the Galaxy). The turnoff is significantly bluer than that of thick-disk stars, yet the stars lie closer to the Galactic plane than a power-law spheroid predicts. We suggest two models to explain this new structure. One possibility is that this new structure could be a new dwarf satellite of the Milky Way, hidden in the Galactic plane and in the process of being tidally disrupted. The other possibility is that it could be part of a disklike distribution of stars which is metal-poor, with a scale height of approximately 2 kpc and a scale length of approximately 10 kpc. The fifth overdensity, which is 20 kpc away, is some distance from the Sagittarius dwarf streamer orbit and is not associated with any known Galactic structure. We have tentatively identified a sixth overdensity in the halo. If this sixth structure is instead part of a smooth distribution of halo stars (the spheroid), then the spheroid must be very flattened, with axial ratio q = 0.5. It is likely that there are many smaller streams of stars in the Galactic halo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-274
Number of pages30
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - Apr 10 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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