Physics and Astronomy Publications

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Astrophysical Journal





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The Pan-Andromeda Archaeological Survey is a survey of >400 square degrees centered on the Andromeda (M31) and Triangulum (M33) galaxies that has provided the most extensive panorama of an L ∗ galaxy group to large projected galactocentric radii. Here, we collate and summarize the current status of our knowledge of the substructures in the stellar halo of M31, and discuss connections between these features. We estimate that the 13 most distinctive substructures were produced by at least 5 different accretion events, all in the last 3 or 4 Gyr. We suggest that a few of the substructures farthest from M31 may be shells from a single accretion event. We calculate the luminosities of some prominent substructures for which previous estimates were not available, and we estimate the stellar mass budget of the outer halo of M31. We revisit the problem of quantifying the properties of a highly structured data set; specifically, we use the OPTICS clustering algorithm to quantify the hierarchical structure of M31's stellar halo and identify three new faint structures. M31's halo, in projection, appears to be dominated by two "mega-structures," which can be considered as the two most significant branches of a merger tree produced by breaking M31's stellar halo into increasingly smaller structures based on the stellar spatial clustering. We conclude that OPTICS is a powerful algorithm that could be used in any astronomical application involving the hierarchical clustering of points. The publication of this article coincides with the public release of all PAndAS data products.

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