Jurassic: A chemically anomalous structure in the Galactic halo

Jose G. Fernandez-Trincado, Timothy C. Beers, Dante Minniti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Detailed elemental-abundance patterns of giant stars in the Galactic halo measured by the Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Experiment (APOGEE-2) have revealed the existence of a unique and significant stellar subpopulation of silicon-enhanced ([Si/Fe] ≳ +0.5) metal-poor stars, spanning a wide range of metallicities (-1.5 ≲ [Fe/H] ≲-0.8). Stars with over-abundances in [Si/Fe] are of great interest because these have very strong silicon (28Si) spectral features for stars of their metallicity and evolutionary stage, offering clues about rare nucleosynthetic pathways in globular clusters (GCs). Si-rich field stars have been conjectured to have been evaporated from GCs, however, the origin of their abundances remains unclear, and several scenarios have been offered to explain the anomalous abundance ratios. These include the hypothesis that some of them were born from a cloud of gas previously polluted by a progenitor that underwent a specific and peculiar nucleosynthesis event or, alternatively, that they were due to mass transfer from a previous evolved companion. However, those scenarios do not simultaneously explain the wide gamut of chemical species that are found in Si-rich stars. Instead, we show that the present inventory of such unusual stars, as well as their relation to known halo substructures (including the in situ halo, Gaia-Enceladus, the Helmi Stream(s), and Sequoia, among others), is still incomplete. We report the chemical abundances of the iron-peak (Fe), the light-(C and N), the α-(O and Mg), the odd-Z (Na and Al), and the s-process (Ce and Nd) elements of 55 newly identified Si-rich field stars (among more than ∼600 000 APOGEE-2 targets), which exhibit over-abundances of [Si/Fe] as extreme as those observed in some Galactic GCs, and they are relatively well distinguished from other stars in the [Si/Fe]-[Fe/H] plane. This new census confirms the presence of a statistically significant and chemically-anomalous structure in the inner halo: Jurassic. The chemo-dynamical properties of the Jurassic structure is consistent with it being the tidally disrupted remains of GCs, which are easily distinguished by an over-abundance of [Si/Fe] among Milky Way populations or satellites.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA83
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • Galaxy: kinematics and dynamics
  • Galaxy: structure
  • Globular clusters: general
  • Stars: abundances
  • Stars: chemically peculiar
  • Techniques: spectroscopic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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