The halo boundary of galaxy clusters in the SDSS

Eric Baxter, Chihway Chang, Bhuvnesh Jain, Susmita Adhikari, Neal Dalal, Andrey Kravtsov, Surhud More, Eduardo Rozo, Eli Rykoff, Ravi K. Sheth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mass around dark matter halos can be divided into “infalling” material and “collapsed” material that has passed through at least one pericenter. Analytical models and simulations predict a rapid drop in the halo density profile associated with caustics in the transition between these two regimes. Using data from SDSS, we explore the evidence for such a feature in the density profiles of galaxy clusters and investigate the connection between this feature and a possible phase space boundary. We first estimate the steepening of the outer galaxy density profile around clusters: the profiles show an abrupt steepening, providing evidence for truncation of the halo profile. Next, we measure the galaxy density profile around clusters using two sets of galaxies selected based on color. We find evidence of an abrupt change in the galaxy colors that coincides with the location of the steepening of the density profile. Since galaxies are likely to be quenched of star formation and turn red inside of clusters, this change in the galaxy color distribution can be interpreted as the transition from an infalling regime to a collapsed regime. We also measure this transition using a model comparison approach which has been used recently in studies of the “splashback” phenomenon, but find that this approach is not a robust way to quantify the significance of detecting a splashback-like feature. Finally, we perform measurements using an independent cluster catalog to test for potential systematic errors associated with cluster selection. We identify several avenues for future work: improved understanding of the small-scale galaxy profile, lensing measurements, identification of proxies for the halo accretion rate, and other tests. With upcoming data from the DES, KiDS and HSC surveys, we can expect significant improvements in the study of halo boundaries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - Feb 6 2017


  • Cosmology: observations
  • Galaxy: clusters: general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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