The Strikingly Metal-rich Halo of the Sombrero Galaxy Academic Article uri icon

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  • The nature of the Sombrero galaxy (M 104 = NGC 4594) has remained elusive despite many observational studies at a variety of wavelengths. Here we present Hubble Space Telescope imaging of two fields at $\sim$16 and 33 kpc along the minor axis to examine stellar metallicity gradients in the extended spheroid. We use this imaging, extending more than 2 mag below the tip of the red giant branch (TRGB), in combination with artificial star tests to forward model observed color-magnitude diagrams (CMDs), measuring metallicity distribution functions (MDFs) at different radii along the minor axis. An important and unexpected result is that the halo of the Sombrero is strikingly metal-rich: even the outer field, located at $\sim$17 effective radii of the bulge, has a median metallicity [Z/H]$\sim$-0.15 and the fraction of stars with [Z/H]<-1.0 is negligible. This is unprecedented among massive galaxy halos studied to date, even among giant ellipticals. We find significant radial metallicity gradients, characterized by an increase in the fraction of metal-poor stars with radius and a gradient in median metallicity of $\sim$-0.01 dex/kpc. The density profile is well fit by power laws with slopes that exhibit a dependence on metallicity, with flatter slopes for more metal-poor stars. We discuss our results in the context of recent stellar MDF studies of other nearby galaxies and potential formation scenarios for the Sombrero galaxy.


  • Cohen, Roger E
  • Goudfrooij, Paul
  • Correnti, Matteo
  • Gnedin, Oleg Y
  • Harris, William Edgar
  • Chandar, Rupali
  • Puzia, Thomas H
  • Sánchez-Janssen, Rubén

publication date

  • February 10, 2020