The three-dimensional motions of stars in small galaxies beyond our own are minute, yet they are crucial for understanding the nature of gravity and dark matter1,2. Even for the dwarf galaxy Sculptor—one of the best-studied systems, which is inferred to be strongly dark matter dominated3,4—there are conflicting reports5-7 on its mean motion around the Milky Way, and the three-dimensional internal motions of its stars have never been measured. Here, we present precise proper motions of Sculptor's stars based on data from the Gaia mission8 and Hubble Space Telescope. Our measurements show that Sculptor moves around the Milky Way on a high-inclination elongated orbit that takes it much further out than previously thought. For Sculptor's internal velocity dispersions, we find σR = 11.5 ± 4.3 km s-1 and σT = 8.5 ± 3.2 km s-1 along the projected radial and tangential directions. Thus, the stars in our sample move preferentially on radial orbits as quantified by the anisotropy parameter, which we find to be β <mml:mstyle fontfamily="Whitney Semibold"> 0.8 6-0.83+0.12</mml:mstyle> at a location beyond the core radius. Taken at face value, this high radial anisotropy requires abandoning conventional models9 for Sculptor's mass distribution. Our sample is dominated by metal-rich stars and for these we find <mml:mstyle fontfamily="Whitney semibold">βM R 0.9 5-0.27+0.04</mml:mstyle>—a value consistent with multi-component spherical models where Sculptor is embedded in a cuspy dark halo10, as might be expected for cold dark matter.
- Pub Date:
- November 2018
- Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies
- Accepted for publication in Nature Astronomy. Note press embargo until 16:00 London time / 11:00 US Eastern Time on 27 November 2017