HST proper motions of NGC 147 and NGC 185: Orbital histories and tests of a dynamically coherent andromeda satellite plane

Sangmo Tony Sohn, Ekta Patel, Mark A. Fardal, Gurtina Besla, Roeland P. van der Marel, Marla Geha, Puragra Guhathakurta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


We present the first proper-motion (PM) measurements for the dwarf elliptical galaxies NGC 147 and NGC 185, two satellite galaxies of M31, using multiepoch Hubble Space Telescope (HST) imaging data with time baselines of ∼8 yr. For each galaxy, we take an error-weighted average of measurements from HST Advanced Camera for Surveys/WFC and Wide Field Camera 3/UVIS to determine the PMs. Our final results for the PMs are (μW, μN)N147 = (−0.0232, 0.0378) ± (0.0143, 0.0146) mas yr−1 for NGC 147 and (μW, μN)N185 = (−0.0242, 0.0058) ± (0.0141, 0.0147) mas yr−1 for NGC 185. The 2D direction of motion for NGC 147 about M31 is found to be aligned with its tidal tails. The 3D positions and velocities of both galaxies are transformed into a common M31-centric coordinate system to study the detailed orbital histories of the combined M31+NGC 147+NGC 185 system via numerical orbit integration. We find that NGC 147 (NGC 185) had its closest passage to M31 0.3-0.5 Gyr (≿1.6 Gyr) within the past 6 Gyr at distances of ∼70 kpc (70-260 kpc). The pericentric times of NGC 147/NGC 185 correlate qualitatively well with the presence/absence of tidal tails seen around the galaxies. Our PMs show that the orbital poles of NGC 147, as well as NGC 185, albeit to a lesser degree, agree within the uncertainties with the normal of the Great Plane of Andromeda (GPoA). These are the first measurements of the 3D angular momentum vector of any satellite identified as original GPoA members. Our results strengthen the hypothesis that the GPoA may be a dynamically coherent entity. We revisit previous claims that NGC 147 and NGC 185 are binary galaxies and conclude that it is very unlikely that the two galaxies were ever gravitationally bound to each other.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number43
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 20 2020


  • Andromeda Galaxy (39)
  • Dwarf elliptical galaxies (415)
  • Galaxy dynamics (591)
  • Local Group (929)
  • Proper motions (1295)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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