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[*] New understanding of Large Magellanic Cloud structure, dynamics and orbit from carbon star kinematics
van der Marel R.P., Alves D.R., Hardy E., Suntzeff N.B.
AJ, 124, 2639-2663, 2002

[*] Citations to this paper in the ADS

We formulate a new, revised and coherent understanding of the structure and dynamics of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), and its orbit around and interaction with the Milky Way. Much of our understanding of these issues hinges on studies of the LMC line-of-sight kinematics. The observed velocity field includes contributions from the LMC rotation curve V(R'), the LMC transverse velocity vector v_t, and the rate of inclination change di/dt. All previous studies have assumed di/dt = 0. We show that this is incorrect, and that combined with uncertainties in v_t this has led to incorrect estimates of many important structural parameters of the LMC. We derive general expressions for the velocity field which we fit to kinematical data for 1041 carbon stars. We calculate v_t by compiling and improving LMC proper motion measurements from the literature, and we show that for known v_t all other model parameters are uniquely determined by the data. The position angle of the line of nodes is Theta = 129.9 +/- 6.0 degrees, consistent with the value determined geometrically by van der Marel and Cioni (2001). The rate of inclination change is di/dt = -0.37 +/- 0.22 mas/yr = -103 +/- 61 degrees/Gyr. This is similar in magnitude to predictions from N-body simulations by Weinberg (2000), which predict LMC disk precession and nutation due to Milky Way tidal torques. The LMC rotation curve V(R') has amplitude 49.8 +/- 15.9 km/s. This is 40% lower than what has previously (and incorrectly) been inferred from studies of HI, carbon stars, and other tracers. The line-of-sight velocity dispersion has an average value sigma = 20.2 +/- 0.5 km/s, with little variation as function of radius. The dynamical center of the carbon stars is consistent with the center of the bar and the center of the outer isophotes, but it is offset by 1.2 +/- 0.6 degrees from the kinematical center of the HI. The enclosed mass inside the last data point is M(8.9 kpc) = (8.7 +/- 4.3) x 10^9 solar masses more than half of which is due to a dark halo. The LMC has a considerable vertical thickness; its V/sigma = 2.9 +/- 0.9 is less than the value for the Milky Way's thick disk (V/sigma = 3.9). Simple arguments for models stratified on spheroids indicate that the (out-of-plane) axial ratio could be 0.3 or larger. Isothermal disk models for the observed velocity dispersion profile confirm the finding of Alves and Nelson (2000) that the scale height must increase with radius. A substantial thickness for the LMC disk is consistent with the simulations of Weinberg, which predict LMC disk thickening due to Milky Way tidal forces. These affect LMC structure even inside the LMC tidal radius, which we calculate to be r_t = 15.0 +/- 4.5 kpc (i.e., 17.1 +/- 5.1 degrees). The new insights into LMC structure need not significantly alter existing predictions for the LMC self-lensing optical depth, which to lowest order depends only on sigma. The compiled proper motion data imply an LMC transverse velocity v_t = 406 km/s in the direction of position angle 78.7 degrees (with errors of 40 km/s in each coordinate). This can be combined with the observed systemic velocity, v_sys = 262.2 +/- 3.4 km/s, to calculate the LMC velocity in the Galactocentric rest frame. This yields v_LMC = 293 +/- 39 km/s, with radial and tangential components v_{LMC,rad} = 84 +/- 7 km/s and v_{LMC,tan} = 281 +/- 41 km/s, respectively. This is consistent with the range of velocities that has been predicted by models for the Magellanic Stream. The implied orbit of the LMC has an apocenter to pericenter distance ratio 2.5:1, a perigalactic distance 45 kpc, and a present orbital period around the Milky Way 1.5 Gyr. The constraint that the LMC is bound to the Milky Way provides a robust limit on the minimum mass and extent of the Milky Way dark halo: M_MW > 4.3 x 10^{11} solar masses and r_h > 39 kpc (68.3% confidence). Finally, we present predictions for the LMC proper motion velocity field, and we discuss how measurements of this may lead to kinematical distance estimates of the LMC.

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Last modified November 29, 2002.
Roeland van der Marel, marel@stsci.edu.
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