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How Common are the Magellanic Clouds?

  • Liu, Lulu
  • Gerke, Brian F.
  • Wechsler, Risa H.
  • Behroozi, Peter S.
  • Busha, Michael T.
Published Article
Publication Date
May 03, 2011
Submission Date
Nov 09, 2010
DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/733/1/62
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We introduce a probabilistic approach to the problem of counting dwarf satellites around host galaxies in databases with limited redshift information. This technique is used to investigate the occurrence of satellites with luminosities similar to the Magellanic Clouds around hosts with properties similar to the Milky Way in the object catalog of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Our analysis uses data from SDSS Data Release 7, selecting candidate Milky-Way-like hosts from the spectroscopic catalog and candidate analogs of the Magellanic Clouds from the photometric catalog. Our principal result is the probability for a Milky-Way-like galaxy to host N_{sat} close satellites with luminosities similar to the Magellanic Clouds. We find that 81 percent of galaxies like the Milky Way are have no such satellites within a radius of 150 kpc, 11 percent have one, and only 3.5 percent of hosts have two. The probabilities are robust to changes in host and satellite selection criteria, background-estimation technique, and survey depth. These results demonstrate that the Milky Way has significantly more satellites than a typical galaxy of its luminosity; this fact is useful for understanding the larger cosmological context of our home galaxy.

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