Are the Red Halos of Galaxies Made of Low-Mass Stars? Constraints from Subdwarf Star Counts in the Milky Way Halo
2008 (English)In: Astrophysical Journal, ISSN 0004-637X, Vol. 687, no 1, 242-251 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Surface photometry detections of red and exceedingly faint halos around galaxies have resurrected the old question of whether some nonnegligible fraction of the missing baryons of the universe could be hiding in the form of faint, hydrogen-burning stars. The optical/near-infrared colors of these red halos have proved very difficult to reconcile with any normal type of stellar population, but can, in principle, be explained by advocating a bottom-heavy stellar initial mass function. This implies a high stellar mass-to-light ratio and hence a substantial baryonic mass locked up in such halos. Here we explore the constraints imposed by current observations of ordinary stellar halo subdwarfs on a putative red halo of low-mass stars around the Milky Way. Assuming structural parameters similar to those of the red halo recently detected in stacked images of external disk galaxies, we find that a smooth halo component with a bottom-heavy initial mass function is completely ruled out by current star count data for the Milky Way. All viable smooth red halo models with a density slope even remotely similar to that of the stacked halo moreover contain far too little mass to have any bearing on the missing-baryon problem. However, we note that these constraints can be sidestepped if the red halo stars are locked up in star clusters, and we discuss potential observations of other nearby galaxies that may be able to put such scenarios to the test.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. Vol. 687, no 1, 242-251 p.
dark matter, galaxies: halos, galaxies: stellar content, Galaxy: halo, subdwarfs
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-107116DOI: 10.1086/591659ISI: 000260370800020OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-107116DiVA: diva2:227697