The Stellar Halo of the Galaxy is Tilted and Doubly Broken

Jiwon Jesse Han, Charlie Conroy, Benjamin D. Johnson, Joshua S. Speagle, Ana Bonaca, Vedant Chandra, Rohan P. Naidu, Yuan Sen Ting, Turner Woody, Dennis Zaritsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Modern Galactic surveys have revealed an ancient merger that dominates the stellar halo of our galaxy (Gaia-Sausage-Enceladus, GSE). Using chemical abundances and kinematics from the H3 Survey, we identify 5559 halo stars from this merger in the radial range r Gal = 6-60kpc. We forward model the full selection function of H3 to infer the density profile of this accreted component of the stellar halo. We consider a general ellipsoid with principal axes allowed to rotate with respect to the galactocentric axes, coupled with a multiply broken power law. The best-fit model is a triaxial ellipsoid (axes ratios 10:8:7) tilted 25° above the Galactic plane toward the Sun and a doubly broken power law with breaking radii at 12 kpc and 28 kpc. The doubly broken power law resolves a long-standing dichotomy in literature values of the halo breaking radius, being at either ∼15 kpc or ∼30 kpc assuming a singly broken power law. N-body simulations suggest that the breaking radii are connected to apocenter pile-ups of stellar orbits, and so the observed double-break provides new insight into the initial conditions and evolution of the GSE merger. Furthermore, the tilt and triaxiality of the stellar halo could imply that a fraction of the underlying dark matter halo is also tilted and triaxial. This has important implications for dynamical mass modeling of the galaxy as well as direct dark matter detection experiments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number249
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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