Clumpy streams from clumpy halos: Detecting missing satellites with cold stellar structures

Joo Heon Yoon, Kathryn V. Johnston, David W. Hogg

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Dynamically cold stellar streams are ideal probes of the gravitational field of the Milky Way. This paper re-examines the question of how such streams might be used to test for the presence of "missing satellites" - the many thousands of dark-matter subhalos with masses 105-107 M which are seen to orbit within Galactic-scale dark-matter halos in simulations of structure formation in ΛCDM cosmologies. Analytical estimates of the frequency and energy scales of stream encounters indicate that these missing satellites should have a negligible effect on hot debris structures, such as the tails from the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy. However, long cold streams, such as the structure known as GD1 or those from the globular cluster Palomar 5 (Pal 5), are expected to suffer many tens of direct impacts from missing satellites during their lifetimes. Numerical experiments confirm that these impacts create gaps in the debris' orbital energy distribution, which will evolve into degree- and sub-degree-scale fluctuations in surface density over the age of the debris. Maps of Pal 5's own stream contain surface density fluctuations on these scales. The presence and frequency of these inhomogeneities suggests the existence of a population of missing satellites in numbers predicted in the standard ΛCDM cosmologies.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article number58
    JournalAstrophysical Journal
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Apr 10 2011


    • Galaxy: halo
    • Galaxy: kinematics and dynamics
    • Galaxy: structure
    • cosmology: theory
    • dark matter

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Astronomy and Astrophysics
    • Space and Planetary Science


    Dive into the research topics of 'Clumpy streams from clumpy halos: Detecting missing satellites with cold stellar structures'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this