We present a deep, wide-field photometric survey of the newly discovered Hercules dwarf spheroidal galaxy (dSph), based on data from the Large Binocular Telescope. Images in B, V, and r were obtained with the Large Binocular Camera covering a 23′ × 23′ field of view to a magnitude of ∼25.5 (5 σ;). This permitted the construction of color-magnitude diagrams that reach approximately 1.5 mag below the Hercules main-sequence turnoff. Three-filter photometry allowed us to preferentially select probable Hercules member stars and to examine the structure of this system at a previously unattained level. We find that the Hercules dwarf is highly elongated (3: 1) considerably more so than any other dSph satellite of the Milky Way, except the disrupting Sagittarius dwarf. Although we cannot rule out that the unusual structure is intrinsic to Hercules as an equilibrium system, our results suggest tidal disruption as a likely cause of this highly elliptical structure. Given the relatively large galactocentric distance of this system (± 12 kpc), signs of tidal disruption would require the Hercules dwarf to be on a highly eccentric orbit around the Milky Way.
- Galaxies: Individual (Hercules dwarf spheroidal galaxy)
- Galaxies: Kinematics and dynamics
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science