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A search for stellar structures around nine outer halo globular clusters in the Milky Way

Zhang, Shumeng, Mackey, Dougal & Da Costa, Gary S., 2022, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 513, 3136 | View on ADS (2022MNRAS.513.3136Z)


We use deep imaging from the Dark Energy Camera to explore the peripheral regions of nine globular clusters in the outer halo of the Milky Way. Apart from Whiting 1 and NGC 7492, which are projected against the Sagittarius stream, we see no evidence for adjacent stellar populations to indicate any of these clusters is associated with coherent tidal debris from a destroyed host dwarf. We also find no evidence for tidal tails around any of the clusters in our sample; however, both NGC 1904 and 6981 appear to possess outer envelopes. Motivated by a slew of recent Gaia-based discoveries, we compile a sample of clusters with robust detections of extra-tidal structure, and search for correlations with orbital properties. While we observe that clusters with tidal tails are typically on moderately or very eccentric orbits that are highly inclined to the Galactic plane and often retrograde, these are neither necessary nor sufficient conditions for the formation of extra-tidal structure. That many objects with tidal tails appear to be accreted leads us to speculate that this lack of consistency may stem from the inhomogeneous dynamical history of the Milky Way globular cluster system. Finally, we note that clusters with prominent stellar envelopes detected in ground-based imaging (such as NGC 1851 and 7089) are now all known from Gaia to possess long tidal tails - experimental confirmation that the presence of an extended envelope is indicative of tidal erosion.

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