The metal-poor stellar halo in RAVE-TGAS and its implications for the velocity distribution of dark matter

Jonah Herzog-Arbeitman, Mariangela Lisanti, Lina Necib

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The local velocity distribution of dark matter plays an integral role in interpreting the results from direct detection experiments. We previously showed that metal-poor halo stars serve as excellent tracers of the virialized dark matter velocity distribution using a high-resolution hydrodynamic simulation of a Milky Way-like halo. In this paper, we take advantage of the first Gaia data release, coupled with spectroscopic measurements from the RAdial Velocity Experiment (RAVE), to study the kinematics of stars belonging to the metal-poor halo within an average distance of ∼5 kpc of the Sun. We study stars with iron abundances [Fe/H] < -1.5 and -1.8 that are located more than 1.5 kpc from the Galactic plane. Using a Gaussian mixture model analysis, we identify the stars that belong to the halo population, as well as some kinematic outliers. We find that both metallicity samples have similar velocity distributions for the halo component, within uncertainties. Assuming that the stellar halo velocities adequately trace the virialized dark matter, we study the implications for direct detection experiments. The Standard Halo Model, which is typically assumed for dark matter, is discrepant with the empirical distribution by ∼6σ, predicts fewer high-speed particles, and is anisotropic. As a result, the Standard Halo Model overpredicts the nuclear scattering rate for dark matter masses below ∼10 GeV. The kinematic outliers that we identify may potentially be correlated with dark matter substructure, though further study is needed to establish this correspondence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number052
JournalJournal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 20 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics


  • dark matter experiments
  • dark matter theory
  • galaxy dynamics
  • stars


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