Are some milky way globular clusters hosted by undiscovered galaxies?

Dennis Zaritsky, Denija Crnojević, David J. Sand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The confirmation of a globular cluster (GC) in the recently discovered ultrafaint galaxy Eridanus II (Eri II) motivated us to examine the question posed in the title. After estimating the halo mass of Eri II using a published stellar mass - halo mass relation, the one GC in this galaxy supports extending the relationship between the number of GCs hosted by a galaxy and the galaxy's total mass about two orders of magnitude in stellar mass below the previous limit. For this empirically determined specific frequency of between 0.06 and 0.39 GCs per 109 M o of total mass, the surviving Milky Way (MW) subhalos with masses smaller than 1010 M o could host as many as 5-31 GCs, broadly consistent with the actual population of outer halo MW GCs, although matching the radial distribution in detail remains a challenge. Using a subhalo mass function from published high-resolution numerical simulations and a Poissonian model for populating those halos with the aforementioned empirically constrained frequency, we find that about 90% of these GCs lie in lower-mass subhalos than that of Eri II. From what we know about the stellar mass-halo mass function, the subhalo mass function, and the mass-normalized GC specific frequency, we conclude that some of the MW's outer halo GCs are likely to be hosted by undetected subhalos with extremely modest stellar populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL9
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 20 2016


  • Galaxy: halo
  • dark matter
  • globular clusters: general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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