Quantifying the Impact of the Large Magellanic Cloud on the Structure of the Milky Way's Dark Matter Halo Using Basis Function Expansions

Nicolás Garavito-Camargo, Gurtina Besla, Chervin F.P. Laporte, Adrian M. Price-Whelan, Emily C. Cunningham, Kathryn V. Johnston, Martin Weinberg, Facundo A. Gómez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Indications of disequilibrium throughout the Milky Way (MW) highlight the need for compact, flexible, non-parametric descriptions of phase-space distributions of galaxies. We present a new representation of the current dark matter (DM) distribution and potential derived from N-body simulations of the MW and Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) system using basis function expansions (BFEs). We incorporate methods to maximize the physical signal in the representation. As a result, the simulations of 108 DM particles representing the distorted MW(MW+LMC) system can be described by ∼236(2067) coefficients. We find that the LMC induces asymmetric perturbations (odd l, m) to the MW's halo, which are inconsistent with oblate, prolate, or triaxial halos. Furthermore, the energy in high order even modes (l, m > 2) is similar to average triaxial halos found in cosmological simulations. As such, the response of the MW's halo to the LMC must be accounted for in order to recover the imprints of its assembly history. The LMC causes the outer halo (>30 kpc) to shift from the disk center of mass (COM) by ∼15-25 kpc at present day, manifesting as a dipole in the BFE and in the radial velocities of halo stars. The shift depends on the LMC's infall mass, the distortion of the LMC's halo and the MW halo response.Within 30 kpc, halo tracers are expected to orbit the COM of the MW's disk, regardless of LMC infall mass. The LMC's halo is also distorted by MW tides; we discuss the implications for its mass loss and the subsequent effects on current Magellanic satellites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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