The globular cluster VVV CL002 falling down to the hazardous Galactic centre

Dante Minniti, Noriyuki Matsunaga, José G. Fernández-Trincado, Shogo Otsubo, Yuki Sarugaku, Tomomi Takeuchi, Haruki Katoh, Satoshi Hamano, Yuji Ikeda, Hideyo Kawakita, Philip W. Lucas, Leigh C. Smith, Ilaria Petralia, Elisa Rita Garro, Roberto K. Saito, Javier Alonso-García, Matías Gómez, María Gabriela Navarro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Context. The Galactic centre is hazardous for stellar clusters because of the strong tidal force in action there. It is believed that many clusters were destroyed there and contributed stars to the crowded stellar field of the bulge and the nuclear stellar cluster. However, the development of a realistic model to predict the long-term evolution of the complex inner Galaxy has proven difficult, and observations of surviving clusters in the central region would provide crucial insights into destruction processes. Aims. Among the known Galactic globular clusters, VVV CL002 is the closest to the centre, at 0.4 kpc, but has a very high transverse velocity of 400 km s-1. The nature of this cluster and its impact on Galactic astronomy need to be addressed with spectroscopic follow up. Methods. Here we report the first measurements of its radial velocity and chemical abundance based on near-infrared high-resolution spectroscopy. Results. We find that this cluster has a counter-rotating orbit constrained within 1.0 kpc of the centre, and as close as 0.2 kpc at the perigalacticon, confirming that the cluster is not a passerby from the halo but a genuine survivor enduring the harsh conditions of the tidal forces of the Galactic mill. In addition, its metallicity and α abundance ([α/Fe] ≃ +0.4 and [Fe/H] = -0.54) are similar to those of some globular clusters in the bulge. Recent studies suggest that stars with such α-enhanced stars were more common at 3- 6 kpc from the centre around 10 Gyr ago. Conclusions. We infer that VVV CL002 was formed outside but is currently falling down to the centre, showcasing a real-time event that must have occurred to many clusters a long time ago.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA150
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Volume683
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2024

Keywords

  • Galaxy: nucleus
  • Globular clusters: general
  • Stars: abundances

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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