Stars made in outflows may populate the stellar halo of the Milky Way

Sijie Yu*, James S. Bullock, Andrew Wetzel, Robyn E. Sanderson, Andrew S. Graus, Michael Boylan-Kolchin, Anna M. Nierenberg, Michael Y. Grudic, Philip F. Hopkins, Dusan Keres, Claude Andre Faucher-Giguere

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

We study stellar-halo formation using six Milky-Way-mass galaxies in FIRE-2 cosmological zoom simulations. We find that 5-40 per cent of the outer (50-300 kpc) stellar halo in each system consists of in-situ stars that were born in outflows from the main galaxy. Outflow stars originate from gas accelerated by superbubble winds, which can be compressed, cool, and form co-moving stars. The majority of these stars remain bound to the halo and fall back with orbital properties similar to the rest of the stellar halo at z = 0. In the outer halo, outflow stars are more spatially homogeneous, metal-rich, and alpha-element-enhanced than the accreted stellar halo. At the solar location, up to ∼10 per cent of our kinematically identified halo stars were born in outflows; the fraction rises to as high as ∼40 per cent for the most metal-rich local halo stars ([Fe/H] >-0.5). Such stars can be retrograde and create features similar to the recently discoveredMilkyWay 'Splash' in phase space.We conclude that theMilkyWay stellar halo could contain local counterparts to stars that are observed to form in molecular outflows in distant galaxies. Searches for such a population may provide a new, near-field approach to constraining feedback and outflow physics. A stellar halo contribution from outflows is a phase-reversal of the classic halo formation scenario of Eggen, Lynden-Bell & Sandange, who suggested that halo stars formed in rapidly infalling gas clouds. Stellar outflows may be observable in direct imaging of external galaxies and could provide a source for metal-rich, extreme-velocity stars in the Milky Way.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1539-1559
Number of pages21
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Volume494
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2020

Keywords

  • Galaxies: Evolution
  • Galaxies: Formation
  • Galaxies: Haloes
  • Galaxies: Structure
  • Methods: numerical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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