Mapping the galactic halo. I. The "spaghetti" survey

Heather L. Morrison, Mario Mateo, Edward W. Olszewski, Paul Harding, R. C. Dohm-Palmer, Kenneth C. Freeman, John E. Norris, Miwa Morita

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


We describe a major survey of the Milky Way halo designed to test for kinematic substructure caused by destruction of accreted satellites. We use the Washington photometric system to identify halo stars efficiently for spectroscopic follow-up. Tracers include halo giants (detectable out to more than 100 kpc), blue horizontal-branch (BHB) stars, halo stars near the main-sequence turnoff, and the "blue metal-poor stars" of Preston, Beers, & Shectman. We demonstrate the success of our survey by showing spectra of stars we have identified in all these categories, including giants as distant as 75 kpc. We discuss the problem of identifying the most distant halo giants. In particular, extremely metal-poor halo K dwarfs are present in approximately equal numbers to the distant giants for V > 18, and we show that our method will distinguish reliably between these two groups of metal-poor stars. We plan to survey 100 deg2 at high Galactic latitude and expect to increase the numbers of known halo giants, BHB stars, and turnoff stars by more than an order of magnitude. In addition to the strong test that this large sample will provide for the question, Was the Milky Way halo accreted from satellite galaxies? we will improve the accuracy of mass measurements of the Milky Way beyond 50 kpc via the kinematics of the many distant giants and BHB stars we find. We show that one of our first data sets constrains the halo density law over Galactocentric radii of 5-20 kpc and z-heights of 2-15 kpc. The data support a flattened power-law halo with b/a of 0.6 and exponent -3.0. More complex models with a varying axial ratio may be needed with a larger data set.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2254-2273
Number of pages20
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2000


  • Galaxy: evolution
  • Galaxy: formation
  • Galaxy: halo
  • Galaxy: stellar content

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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