Constraining the milky way potential with a six-dimensional phase-space map of the GD-1 stellar stream

Sergey E. Koposov, Hans Walter Rix, David W. Hogg

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The narrow GD-1 stream of stars, spanning 60° on the sky at a distance of 10kpc from the Sun and 15kpc from the Galactic center, is presumed to be debris from a tidally disrupted star cluster that traces out a test-particle orbit in the Milky Way halo. We combine Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) photometry, USNO-B astrometry, and SDSS and Calar Alto spectroscopy to construct a complete, empirical six-dimensional (6D) phase-space map of the stream. We find that an eccentric orbit in a flattened isothermal potential describes this phase-space map well. Even after marginalizing over the stream orbital parameters and the distance from the Sun to the Galactic center, the orbital fit to GD-1 places strong constraints on the circular velocity at the Sun's radius Vc = 224 13kms-1 and total potential flattening q Φ = 0.87+0.07 -0.04. When we drop any informative priors on Vc , the GD-1 constraint becomes Vc = 221 18kms-1. Our 6D map of GD-1, therefore, yields the best current constraint on Vc and the only strong constraint on q Φ at Galactocentric radii near R 15kpc. Much, if not all, of the total potential flattening may be attributed to the mass in the stellar disk, so the GD-1 constraints on the flattening of the halo itself are weak: q Φ,halo > 0.89 at 90% confidence. The greatest uncertainty in the 6D map and the orbital analysis stems from the photometric distances, which will be obviated by GAIA.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)260-273
    Number of pages14
    JournalAstrophysical Journal
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - 2010


    • Galaxy: fundamental parameters
    • Galaxy: halo
    • Galaxy: kinematics and dynamics
    • Methods: statistical
    • Stars: kinematics and dynamics
    • Surveys

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Astronomy and Astrophysics
    • Space and Planetary Science


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