Tracing the formation of the Milky Way through ultra metal-poor stars

Sestito, F.; Longeard, Nicolas; Martin, Nicolas F.; Starkenburg, Else; Fouesneau, Morgan; González Hernández, J. I.; Arentsen, Anke; Ibata, Rodrigo; Aguado, David S.; Carlberg, Raymond G.; Jablonka, Pascale; Navarro, Julio F.; Tolstoy, Eline; Venn, Kim A.
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Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 484, Issue 2, p.2166-2180

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We use Gaia DR2 astrometric and photometric data, published radial velocities and MESA models to infer distances, orbits, surface gravities, and effective temperatures for all ultra metal-poor stars ([Fe/H] < -4.0 dex) available in the literature. Assuming that these stars are old (> 11 Gyr) and that they are expected to belong to the Milky Way halo, we find that these 42 stars (18 dwarf stars and 24 giants or sub-giants) are currently within ˜ 20 kpc of the Sun and that they map a wide variety of orbits. A large fraction of those stars remains confined to the inner parts of the halo and was likely formed or accreted early on in the history of the Milky Way, while others have larger apocentres (> 30 kpc), hinting at later accretion from dwarf galaxies. Of particular interest, we find evidence that a significant fraction of all known UMP stars (˜26 per cent) are on prograde orbits confined within 3 kpc of the Milky Way plane (J_z < 100 km s^{-1} kpc). One intriguing interpretation is that these stars belonged to the massive building block(s) of the proto-Milky Way that formed the backbone of the Milky Way disc. Alternatively, they might have formed in the early disc and have been dynamically heated, or have been brought into the Milky Way by one or more accretion events whose orbit was dragged into the plane by dynamical friction before disruption. The combination of the exquisite Gaia DR2 data and surveys of the very metal-poor sky opens an exciting era in which we can trace the very early formation of the Milky Way.
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