Using Surface Brightness Fluctuations to Study Nearby Satellite Galaxy Systems: Calibration and Methodology

Scott G. Carlsten, Rachael L. Beaton, Johnny P. Greco, Jenny E. Greene

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


We explore the use of ground-based surface brightness fluctuation (SBF) measurements to constrain distances to nearby dwarf galaxies. Using archival CFHT Megacam imaging data for a sample of 28 nearby dwarfs, we demonstrate that reliable SBF measurements and distances accurate to 15% are possible even for very low surface brightness (μ 0i > 24 mag arcsec-2) galaxies with modest, ∼hour-long exposures with CFHT. Combining our sample with a recent sample of six dwarfs with SBF measured with Hubble Space Telescope (HST) from the literature, we provide the most robust empirical SBF calibration to date for the blue colors expected for these low-mass systems. Our calibration is credible over the color range 0.3 ≲ g - i ≲ 0.8 mag. It is also the first SBF calibration tied completely to tip of the red giant branch (TRGB) distances as each galaxy in the sample has a literature TRGB distance. We find that even though the intrinsic scatter in SBF increases for blue galaxies, the rms scatter in the calibration is still ≲0.3 mag. We verify our measurements by comparing with HST SBF measurements and detailed image simulations. We argue that ground-based SBF is a very useful tool for characterizing dwarf satellite systems and field dwarfs in the nearby, D ≲ 20 Mpc universe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number13
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Galaxies: Distances And Redshifts
  • Galaxies: Dwarf
  • Methods: Observational
  • Techniques: Photometric


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