New constraints on the structure of the nuclear stellar cluster of the Milky Way from star counts and MIR imaging
Context. The Milky Way nuclear star cluster (MWNSC) is a crucial laboratory for studying the galactic nuclei of other galaxies, but its properties have not been determined unambiguously until now.
Aims: We aim to study the size and spatial structure of the MWNSC.
Methods: This study uses data and methods that address potential shortcomings of previous studies on the topic. We use 0.2″ angular resolution Ks data to create a stellar density map in the central 86.4 pc × 21 pc at the Galactic center. We include data from selected adaptive-optics-assisted images obtained for the inner parsecs. In addition, we use Spitzer/IRAC mid-infrared (MIR) images. We model the Galactic bulge and the nuclear stellar disk in order to subtract them from the MWNSC. Finally, we fit a Sérsic model to the MWNSC and investigate its symmetry.
Results: Our results are consistent with previous work. The MWNSC is flattened with an axis ratio of q = 0.71 ± 0.10, an effective radius of Re = (5.1 ± 1.0) pc, and a Sérsic index of n = 2.2 ± 0.7. Its major axis may be tilted out of the Galactic plane by up to -10°. The distribution of the giants brighter than the Red Clump (RC) is found to be significantly flatter than the distribution of the faint stars. We investigate the 3D structure of the central stellar cusp using our results on the MWNSC structure on large scales to constrain the deprojection of the measured stellar surface number density, obtaining a value of the 3D inner power law of γ = 1.38 ± 0.06sys ± 0.01stat.
Conclusions: The MWNSC shares its main properties with other extragalactic NSCs found in spiral galaxies. The differences in the structure between bright giants and RC stars might be related to the existence of not completely mixed populations of different ages. This may hint at recent growth of the MWNSC through star formation or cluster accretion.
Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Pub Date:
- February 2020
- Galaxy: center;
- Galaxy: structure;
- Galaxy: nucleus;
- infrared: stars;
- galaxies: structure;
- galaxies: nuclei;
- Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies
- 20 pages