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The little things matter: relating the abundance of ultrafaint satellites to the hosts’ assembly history.

Frenk, Carlos S. and Belokurov, Vasily and Deason, Alis J. and Bose, Sownak (2020) 'The little things matter: relating the abundance of ultrafaint satellites to the hosts’ assembly history.', Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society., 495 (1). pp. 743-757.


Ultrafaint dwarf galaxies (M⋆ ≤ 105 M⊙) are relics of an early phase of galaxy formation. They contain some of the oldest and most metal-poor stars in the Universe which likely formed before the epoch of hydrogen reionisation. These galaxies are so faint that they can only be detected as satellites of the Milky Way. They are so small that they are not resolved in current cosmological hydrodynamics simulations. Here we combine very high resolution cosmological N-body simulations with a semi-analytic model of galaxy formation to study the demographics and spatial distribution of ultrafaint satellites in Milky Way-mass haloes. We show that the abundance of these galaxies is correlated with the assembly history of the host halo: at fixed mass, haloes assembled earlier contain, on average, more ultrafaint satellites today than haloes assembled later. We identify simulated galactic haloes that experience an ancient Gaia-Enceladus-Sausage-like and a recent LMC-like accretion event and find that the former occurs in 33% of the sample and the latter in 9%. Only 3% experience both events and these are especially rich in ultrafaint satellites, most acquired during the ancient accretion event. Our models predict that the radial distribution of satellites is more centrally concentrated in early-forming haloes. Accounting for the depletion of satellites by tidal interactions with the central disc, we find a very good match to the observed radial distribution of satellites in the Milky Way over the entire radial range. This agreement is mainly due to the ability of our model to track ‘orphan’ galaxies after their subhaloes fall below the resolution limit of the simulation.

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Publisher statement:This article has been accepted for publication in Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. ©: 2020 The Author(s) . Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
Date accepted:25 April 2020
Date deposited:05 May 2020
Date of first online publication:04 May 2020
Date first made open access:05 May 2020

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