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Physics  2014 

A thousand shadows of Andromeda: rotating planes of satellites in the Millennium-II cosmological simulation

DOI: 10.1088/2041-8205/784/1/L6

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In a recent contribution, Bahl \& Baumgardt investigated the incidence of planar alignments of satellite galaxies in the Millennium-II simulation, and concluded that vast thin planes of dwarf galaxies, similar to that observed in the Andromeda galaxy (M31), occur frequently by chance in $\Lambda$-Cold Dark Matter cosmology. However, their analysis did not capture the essential fact that the observed alignment is simultaneously radially extended, yet thin, and kinematically unusual. With the caveat that the Millennium-II simulation may not have sufficient mass resolution to identify confidently simulacra of low-luminosity dwarf galaxies, we re-examine that simulation for planar structures, using the same method as employed by Ibata et al. (2013) on the real M31 satellites. We find that 0.04\% of host galaxies display satellite alignments that are at least as extreme as the observations, when we consider their extent, thickness and number of members rotating in the same sense. We further investigate the angular momentum properties of the co-planar satellites, and find that the median of the specific angular momentum derived from the line of sight velocities in the real M31 structure ($1.3\times10^4$ km/s kpc) is very high compared to systems drawn from the simulations. This analysis confirms that it is highly unlikely that the observed structure around the Andromeda galaxy is due to a chance occurrence. Interestingly, the few extreme systems that are similar to M31 arise from the accretion of a massive sub-halo with its own spatially-concentrated entourage of orphan satellites.


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