New insights on the Draco dwarf spheroidal galaxy from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey: A larger radius and no tidal tails

Michael Odenkirchen, Eva K. Grebel, Daniel Harbeck, Walter Dehnen, Hans Walter Rix, Heidi Jo Newberg, Brian Yanny, Jon Holtzman, Jon Brinkmann, Bing Chen, Istvan Csabai, Jeffrey J.E. Hayes, Greg Hennessy, Robert B. Hindsley, Željko Ivezić, Ellyne K. Kinney, S. J. Kleinman, Dan Long, Robert H. Lupton, Eric H. NeilsenAtsuko Nitta, Stephanie A. Snedden, Donald G. York

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


We have investigated the spatial extent and structure of the Draco dwarf spheroidal galaxy by using deep wide-field multicolor CCD photometry from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). Our study covers an area of 27 deg2 around the center of the Draco dwarf and reaches 2 mag below the level of Draco's horizontal branch. The SDSS photometry allows very effective filtering in color-magnitude space. With such filtering the density of the foreground of Galactic field stars is decreased by more than an order of magnitude, and the stellar population of the Draco dwarf galaxy thus stands out with much higher contrast than in former investigations. We show that the spatial distribution of Draco's red giants, red horizontal-branch stars, and subgiants down to i* = 21.7 mag does not provide evidence for the existence of tidally induced tails or a halo of unbound stars. The projected surface density of the dwarf galaxy is flattened with a nearly constant ellipticity of 0.29 ± 0.02 at position angle 88° ± 3°. The radial profile can be fitted by King models, as well as by a generalized exponential. Using the empirical King profile, the core radius and the limiting (or tidal) radius along the major axis are rc = 7′.7 and rt = 40′.1, respectively; the latter means that the size of the Draco dwarf galaxy is 40% larger than previously measured. Fitting the profile of King's theoretical models yields a still larger limiting radius of rt = 49′.5. There is no clear indication of a taillike extension of the Draco population beyond this radius. A break in the radial surface density profile, which might indicate a halo of extratidal stars, is also not found in our Draco data. We conclude that down to the above magnitude limit tidal effects can exist only at a level of 10-3 of the central surface density of Draco or below. The regular structure of Draco found from the new data argues against its being a portion of an unbound tidal stream and lends support to the assumption of dynamical equilibrium, which is the basis for mass estimation. The changes in the values for the core radius and limiting radius imply that the total mass of Draco is higher by more than a factor of 2. Using a King spherical model of equivalent size as a reference and adopting a line-of-sight velocity dispersion of either 10.7 or 8.5 km s-1, we derive estimates of the total mass within radius rt of (3.5 ± 0.7) × 107 M⊙ and (2.2 ± 0.5) × 107 M⊙, respectively. From the combined i-band flux of all possible Draco members that lie within major-axis radius rt we determine the total luminosity of the Draco dwarf galaxy as (L/L)i = (2.4 ± 0.5) × 105. This includes corrections for the flux of the foreground stars and the unseen fainter part of the Draco population. We thus obtain overall mass-to-light ratios M/Li of 146 ± 42, or 92 ± 28 in solar units. In summary, our results strengthen the case for a strongly dark matter-dominated, bound stellar system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2538-2553
Number of pages16
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Galaxies: dwarf
  • Galaxies: individual (Draco)
  • Galaxies: structure
  • Local group


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