The Anisotropic Distribution of M31 Satellite Galaxies: A Polar Great Plane of Early-type Companions

Andreas Koch, Eva K. Grebel
2006 Astronomical Journal  
The highly anisotropic distribution and apparent alignment of the Galactic satellites in polar great planes begs the question how common such distributions are. The satellite system of M31 is the only nearby system for which we currently have sufficiently accurate distances to study the three-dimensional satellite distribution. We present the spatial distribution of the 15 presently known M31 companions in a coordinate system centered on M31 and aligned with its disk. Through a detailed
more » ... cal analysis we show that the full satellite sample describes a plane that is inclined by -56 deg with respect to the poles of M31 and that has an r.m.s. height of 100 kpc. With 88% the statistical significance of this plane is low and it is unlikely to have a physical meaning. The great stellar stream found near Andromeda is inclined to this plane by 7 deg. There is little evidence for a Holmberg effect. If we confine our analysis to early-type dwarfs, we find a best-fit polar plane within 5 deg to 7 deg from the pole of M31. This polar great plane has a statistical significance of 99.3% and includes all dSphs (except for And II), M32, NGC 147, and PegDIG. The r.m.s. distance of these galaxies from the polar plane is 16 kpc. The nearby spiral M33 has a distance of only about 3 kpc from this plane, which points toward the M81 group. We discuss the anisotropic distribution of M31's early-type companions in the framework of three scenarios, namely as remnants of the break-up of a larger progenitor, as tracer of a prolate dark matter halo, and as tracer of collapse along large-scale filaments. (Abridged)
doi:10.1086/499534 fatcat:tfhxbwqv3bd3taxygkhrflrsjq