According to the standard cosmological scenario, the large galaxies that we observe today have reached their current mass via mergers with smaller galaxy satellites1. This hierarchical process is expected to take place on smaller scales for the satellites themselves, which should build up from the accretion of smaller building blocks2. The best chance we have to test this prediction is by looking at the most massive satellite of the Milky Way: the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). Smaller galaxies have been revealed to orbit around the LMC3,4, but so far the only evidence for mutual interactions is related to the orbital interplay with the nearby Small Magellanic Cloud, which is the most massive LMC satellite. In this work, we report the likely discovery of a past merger event that the LMC experienced with a galaxy with a low star formation efficiency and likely a stellar mass similar to those of dwarf spheroidal galaxies. This former LMC satellite has now completely dissolved, depositing the old globular cluster NGC 2005 as part of its debris. This globular cluster, the only surviving witness of this ancient merger event, is recognizable through its peculiar chemical composition. This discovery is observational evidence that the process of hierarchical assembly has worked also in shaping our closest satellites.
- Pub Date:
- October 2021
- Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies;
- Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics
- 32 pages, 7 figures, 3 table. Published in Nature Astronomy