A New Milky Way Companion: Unusual Globular Cluster or Extreme Dwarf Satellite?

Beth Willman, Michael R. Blanton, Andrew A. West, Julianne J. Dalcanton, David W. Hogg, Donald P. Schneider, Nicholas Wherry, Brian Yanny, Jon Brinkmann
2005 Astronomical Journal  
We report the discovery of SDSSJ1049+5103, an overdensity of resolved blue stars at (α_2000, δ_2000) = (162.343, 51.051). This object appears to be an old, metal-poor stellar system at a distance of 45 +/- 10 kpc, with a half-light radius of 23± 10 pc and an absolute magnitude of M_V = -3.0^+2.0_-0.7. One star that is likely associated with this companion has an SDSS spectrum confirming it as a blue horizontal branch star at 48 kpc. The color-magnitude diagram of SDSSJ1049+5103 contains few, if
more » ... any, horizontal or red giant branch stars, similar to the anomalously faint globular cluster AM 4. The size and luminosity of SDSSJ1049+5103 places it at the intersection of the size-luminosity relationships followed by known globular clusters and by Milky Way dwarf spheroidals. If SDSSJ1049+5103 is a globular cluster, then its properties are consistent with the established trend that the largest radius Galactic globular clusters are all in the outer halo. However, the five known globular clusters with similarly faint absolute magnitudes all have half-mass radii that are smaller than SDSSJ1049+5103 by a factor of ≳ 5. If it is a dwarf spheroidal, then it is the faintest yet known by two orders of magnitude, and is the first example of the ultra-faint dwarfs predicted by some theories. The uncertain nature of this new system underscores the sometimes ambiguous distinction between globular clusters and dwarf spheroidals. A simple friends-of-friends search for similar blue, small scalesize star clusters detected all known globulars and dwarfs closer than 50 kpc in the SDSS area, but yielded no other candidates as robust as SDSSJ1049+5103.
doi:10.1086/430214 fatcat:3etaucsmmffmjdobndzs5ucciu