The M101 Satellite Luminosity Function and the Halo-Halo Scatter among Local Volume Hosts

P. Bennet, D. J. Sand, D. Crnojević, K. Spekkens, A. Karunakaran, D. Zaritsky, B. Mutlu-Pakdil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


We have obtained deep Hubble Space Telescope (HST) imaging of 19 dwarf galaxy candidates in the vicinity of M101. Advanced Camera for Surveys HST photometry for two of these objects showed resolved stellar populations and tip of the red giant branch derived distances (D ∼ 7 Mpc) consistent with M101 group membership. The remaining 17 were found to have no resolved stellar populations, meaning they are either part of the background NGC 5485 group or are distant low surface brightness (LSB) galaxies. It is noteworthy that many LSB objects that had previously been assumed to be M101 group members based on projection have been shown to be background objects, indicating the need for future diffuse dwarf surveys to be very careful in drawing conclusions about group membership without robust distance estimates. In this work we update the satellite luminosity function of M101 based on the presence of these new objects down to M V =-8.2. M101 is a sparsely populated system with only nine satellites down to M V ≈-8, as compared with 26 for M31 and 24.5 ± 7.7 for the median host in the Local Volume. This makes M101 by far the sparsest group probed to this depth, although M94 is even sparser to the depth at which it has been examined (M V =-9.1). M101 and M94 share several properties that mark them as unusual compared with the other Local Volume galaxies examined: They have a very sparse satellite population but also have high star-forming fractions among these satellites; such properties are also found in the galaxies examined as part of the Satellites around Galactic Analogs survey. We suggest that these properties appear to be tied to the wider galactic environment, with more isolated galaxies showing sparse satellite populations that are more likely to have had recent star formation, while those in dense environments have more satellites that tend to have no ongoing star formation. Overall, our results show a level of halo-to-halo scatter between galaxies of similar mass that is larger than is predicted in the lambda cold dark matter model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number153
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 10 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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