Tracing the metal-poor M31 stellar halo with blue horizontal branch stars.
WILLIAMS B.F., DALCANTON J.J., BELL E.F., GILBERT K.M., GUHATHAKURTA P., DORMAN C., LAUER T.R., SETH A.C., KALIRAI J.S., ROSENFIELD P. and GIRARDI L.
Abstract (from CDS):
We have analyzed new Hubble Space Telescope (HST)/Advanced Camera for Surveys and HST/WFC3 imaging in F475W and F814W of two previously unobserved fields along the M31 minor axis to confirm our previous constraints on the shape of M31's inner stellar halo. Both of these new data sets reach a depth of at least F814W <27 and clearly detect the blue horizontal branch (BHB) of the field as a distinct feature of the color-magnitude diagram. We measure the density of BHB stars and the ratio of BHB to red giant branch (RGB) stars in each field using techniques identical to our previous work. We find excellent agreement with our previous measurement of a power law for the 2D projected surface density with an index of 2.6–0.2+0.3 outside of 3 kpc, which flattens to α < 1.2 inside of 3 kpc. Our findings confirm our previous suggestion that the field BHB stars in M31 are part of the halo population. However, the total halo profile is now known to differ from this BHB profile, which suggests that we have isolated the metal-poor component. This component appears to have an unbroken power-law profile from 3-150 kpc but accounts for only about half of the total halo stellar mass. Discrepancies between the BHB density profile and other measurements of the inner halo are therefore likely due to the different profile of the metal-rich halo component, which is not only steeper than the profile of the metal-poor component, but also has a larger core radius. These profile differences also help to explain the large ratio of BHB/RGB stars in our observations.