Sonia Duffau

Universität Heidelberg, Heidelburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

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Publications (18)38.29 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Radial velocities and metallicities have been measured for 82 RR Lyrae identified by the QUEST survey in the direction of the Virgo constellation. Distributed over 90 sq. deg. of the sky, they lie from 4 to 23 kpc from the Sun. Using an algorithm for finding groups in phase space and modeling the smooth halo component in the region, we identified the 5 most significant RRLS groups. We have examined the SEKBO and the Catalina catalog of RRLS (Prior et al. 2009, and Drake et al. 2013), as well as the bright QUEST RRLS sample (Vivas et al. in prep.), the catalogs of Blue Horizontal Branch stars compiled by Sirko et al (2004) and Brown et al (2008, 2010) and the catalog of Red Giant stars from the Spaghetti survey, for stars that may be related to the QUEST RRLS groups. The most significant group of RRLS is the Virgo Stellar Stream (VSS, Duffau et al 2006), group A, which is composed of at least 10 RRLS and 3 BHB stars. It has a mean distance of 19.6 kpc and a mean radial velocity Vgsr = 128 km/s, as estimated from its RRLS members. With the revised velocities reported here, there is no longer an offset in velocity between the RRLS in the VSS and the prominent peak in the velocities of main-sequence turnoff stars reported by Newberg et al (2007) in the same direction and at a similar distance (S297+63-20.5). The location in phase space of two other groups (F,H) suggests a possible connection with the VSS, which cannot be discarded at this point, although the turnoff colors of the VSS and group H, as identified from Newberg et al. (2007), suggest they might be composed of different populations. Two more groups (B,D), are found at mean distances of 19 and 5.7 kpc, and mean radial velocities of -94 and 32 km/s. None of our groups seems to relate to Sgr streams. The excess of stars observed in Virgo appears to be composed of several halo substructures along the same line of sight.
    03/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: The process of chemical self-enrichment in stellar systems can be affected by the total mass of the system and the conditions of the large-scale environment. Globular clusters are a special dark matter-free case of chemical evolution, in which the only self-enrichment comes from material processed in stars, and only two bursts of star formation occur. We describe how observations of intermediate-age star clusters in the Large Magellanic Cloud can provide insight on the ways that mass and environment can affect the process of chemical enrichment in star clusters.
    Memorie della Societa Astronomica Italiana. 01/2013;
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    Raoul Haschke, Eva K. Grebel, Sonia Duffau
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    ABSTRACT: We use data on variable stars from the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE III) survey to determine the three-dimensional structure of the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC). Deriving individual distances to RR Lyrae stars and Cepheids we investigate the distribution of these tracers of the old and young population in the SMC. Photometrically estimated metallicities are used to determine the distances to 1494 RR Lyrae stars, which have typical ages greater than 9 Gyr. For 2522 Cepheids, with ages of a few tens to a few hundred Myr, distances are calculated using their period-luminosity relation. Individual reddening estimates from the intrinsic color of each star are used to obtain high precision three-dimensional maps. The distances of RR Lyrae stars and Cepheids are in very good agreement with each other. The median distance of the RR Lyrae stars is found to be 61.5 +/- 3.4 kpc. For the Cepheids a median distance of 63.1 +/- 3.0 kpc is obtained. Both populations show an extended scale height, with 2.0 +/- 0.4 kpc for the RR Lyrae stars and 2.7 +/- 0.3 kpc for the Cepheids. This confirms the large depth of the SMC suggested by a number of earlier studies. The young population is very differently oriented than the old stars. While we find an inclination angle of 7{\deg} +/- 15{\deg} and a position angle of 83{\deg} +/- 21{\deg} for the RR Lyrae stars, for the Cepheids an inclination of 74{\deg} +/- 9{\deg} and a position angle of 66{\deg} +/- 15{\deg} is obtained. The RR Lyrae stars show a fairly homogeneous distribution, while the Cepheids follow roughly the distribution of the bar with their northeastern part being closer to us than the southwestern part of the bar. Interactions between the SMC, LMC, and Milky Way are presumably responsible for the tilted, elongated structure of the young population of the SMC.
    The Astronomical Journal 09/2012; 144(4). · 4.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present for the first time a detailed spectroscopic study of chemical element abundances of metal-poor RR Lyrae stars in the Large and Small Magellanic Cloud (LMC and SMC). Using the MagE echelle spectrograph at the 6.5m Magellan telescopes, we obtain medium resolution (R ~ 2000 - 6000) spectra of six RR Lyrae stars in the LMC and three RR Lyrae stars in the SMC. These stars were chosen because their previously determined photometric metallicities were among the lowest metallicities found for stars belonging to the old populations in the Magellanic Clouds. We find the spectroscopic metallicities of these stars to be as low as [Fe/H]_{spec} = -2.7dex, the lowest metallicity yet measured for any star in the Magellanic Clouds. We confirm that for metal-poor stars, the photometric metallicities from the Fourier decomposition of the lightcurves are systematically too high compared to their spectroscopic counterparts. However, for even more metal-poor stars below [Fe/H]_{phot} < -2.8dex this trend is reversed and the spectroscopic metallicities are systematically higher than the photometric estimates. We are able to determine abundance ratios for ten chemical elements, which extend the abundance measurements of chemical elements for RR Lyrae stars in the Clouds beyond [Fe/H] for the first time. For the overall [alpha/Fe] ratio, we obtain an overabundance of 0.36dex, which is in very good agreement with results from metal-poor stars in the Milky Way halo as well as from the metal-poor tail in dwarf spheroidal galaxies. Comparing the abundances with those of the stars in the Milky Way halo we find that the abundance ratios of stars of both populations are consistent with another. Therefore we conclude that from a chemical point of view early contributions from Magellanic-type galaxies to the formation of the Galactic halo as claimed in cosmological models are plausible.
    The Astronomical Journal 06/2012; 144(3). · 4.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present the first metallicity distribution functions of the old field populations in the Magellanic Clouds. Our metallicities are based on the Fourier decomposition of Type ab RR Lyrae light curves from the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE-III). On the metallicity scale of Zinn & West; we find a mean metallicity of [Fe/H] = -1.50 +/- 0.24 dex based on 16776 RR Lyrae stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). For the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) we obtain -1.70 +/- 0.27 dex based on 1831 RR Lyrae stars. These uncertainties represent the intrinsic spread in the population rather than the standard deviation of the mean. Our results are in good agreement with the few existing spectroscopic metallicity determinations for LMC RR Lyrae stars from the literature. For both the LMC and the SMC the metallicity spread exceeds 1 dex in [Fe/H]. The distribution of metallicities in both Clouds is very uniform, and no significant metallicity gradient is detectable. We also do not find any pronounced populations of extremely metal-poor RR Lyrae candidates with metallicities well below -2 dex, although we need to caution that the photometric method used may overestimate the metallicities of metal-deficient stars. Moreover, because of stellar evolutionary effects one does not expect to observe many RR Lyrae stars among very metal-poor horizontal branch stars. We suggest that the Magellanic Clouds experienced fairly rapid and efficient early enrichment involving pre-enriched gas as well as possibly gas infall, while metal loss through outflows does not seem to have played a significant role. Moreover we suggest that the differences in the metallicities of the old population of LMC and SMC make an origin from a single, common progenitor unlikely, unless the separation happened very early on.
    The Astronomical Journal 11/2011; 143(2). · 4.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Pisces overdensity was discovered as an excess of RR Lyrae stars in multi-epoch data of SDSS. Located at a distance of about 85 kpc from the Sun, it is the most distant substructure in the Galactic halo known to date. In this work we study the properties of the Pisces overdensity using spectroscopic data of several RR Lyrae stars observed with the Gemini-South telescope. We find that the distribution of radial velocities in the overdensity is bimodal, suggesting that two different streams are present in that volume of the halo. The large spatial extension of both groups suggests they are unbound systems, likely debris of a tidally disrupted galaxy or galaxies. Whether both kinematic groups have the same or different progenitors is unclear.
    10/2011;
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    Raoul Haschke, Eva K. Grebel, Sonia Duffau
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    ABSTRACT: We present new reddening maps of the SMC and LMC based on the data of the third phase of the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE III). We have used two different methods to derive optical reddening maps. We adopt a theoretical mean unreddened colour for the red clump in the SMC and LMC, respectively. We subdivide the photometric data for both Clouds into subfields and calculate the difference between the observed red clump position and the theoretical value for each field, which provides us with the reddening value in (V-I). Furthermore reddening values are obtained for 13490 LMC RR Lyrae ab and 1529 SMC RR Lyrae ab stars covering the whole OGLE III region of the MCs. The observed colours (V-I) of the RR Lyrae stars are compared with the colour from the absolute magnitudes. The absolute magnitude of each RR Lyrae star is computed using its period and metallicity derived from Fourier decomposition of its lightcurve. In general we find a low and uniform reddening distribution in both Magellanic Clouds. The red clump method indicates a mean reddening of the LMC of E(V-I) = 0.09 +/- 0.07 mag, while for the SMC E(V-I) = 0.04 +/- 0.06 mag is obtained. With RR Lyrae stars a median value of E(V-I) = 0.11 +/- 0.06 mag for the LMC and E(V-I) = 0.07 +/- 0.06 mag for the SMC is found. The LMC shows very low reddening in the bar region, whereas the reddening in the star-forming leading edge and 30 Doradus is considerably higher. In the SMC three pronounced regions with higher reddening are visible. Two are located along the bar, while the highest reddening is found in the star-forming wing of the SMC. In general the regions with higher reddening are in good spatial agreement with infrared reddening maps as well as with reddening estimations of other studies. The position-dependent reddening values from the red clump method are available via the Virtual Observatory interface.
    The Astronomical Journal 04/2011; 141(5). · 4.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present results from a survey of RR Lyrae variable stars (RRLs) in the vicinity of tidally distorted globular cluster Palomar 5. The survey area covers approximately 90 square degrees and includes the northern and southern tidal tails of Pal 5, as well as the surrounding area. Lightcurves have been obtained from the LaSilla-QUEST survey and we have used them to determine the distances to the stars. Additionally, spectra for a subset of the RRLs have been acquired. For those stars, we use the radial velocity measurements to establish membership in Pal 5, its tails, and other streams that fall within our survey area.
    01/2011;
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    ABSTRACT: We report spectroscopic observations with the Gemini South Telescope of 5 faint V~20 RR Lyrae stars associated with the Pisces overdensity. At a heliocentric and galactocentric distance of ~80 kpc, this is the most distant substructure in the Galactic halo known to date. We combined our observations with literature data and confirmed that the substructure is composed of two different kinematic groups. The main group contains 8 stars and has <V_{gsr}> = 50 km/s, while the second group contains four stars at a velocity of <V_{gsr}> = -52 km/s, where V_{gsr} is the radial velocity in the galactocentric standard of rest. The metallicity distribution of RR Lyrae stars in the Pisces overdensity is centered on [Fe/H]=-1.5 dex and has a width of 0.3 dex. The new data allowed us to establish that both groups are spatially extended making it very unlikely that they are bound systems, and are more likely to be debris of a tidally disrupted galaxy or galaxies. Due to small sky coverage, it is still unclear whether these groups have the same or different progenitors. Comment: 21 pages, 5 figures, 3 tables, accepted to Astrophysical Journal
    The Astrophysical Journal 05/2010; · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We have completed a spectroscopic study of the “12.4 hr clump”, the second largest substructure in the Quasar Equatorial Survey Team (QUEST) catalog. First discovered as an over-density of RR Lyrae stars (Vivas et al. 2001, ApJL 554 33), the region containing the “12.4 hr clump” has generated much interest (Newberg et al. (2002), Martinez-Delgado et al. (2007), Juric et al. (2008), amongst many others). Our first spectroscopic study of this clump revealed the presence of a sharp peak in the radial velocity histogram for the candidate stars (Duffau et al. 2006). The combination of this result and metal abundance estimates for the sample was then interpreted as a signature of the presence of a stellar stream within the clump. This sub-structure was named the “Virgo Stellar Stream” (VSS), given its location in the direction of the Virgo Constellation, at approximately 20 kpc from the Sun. Several other groups have studied this region and have suggested that the over-density containing the VSS could extend to larger areas of the sky (outside QUEST's observing range). We present the complete spectroscopic follow up of the clump candidates present in QUEST and the composite of the studies we performed along the same l.o.s., including data at brighter magnitudes (Vivas et al. 2008). Our study confirmed the nature of the VSS, revealed its likely extent within the QUEST survey and defined a number of its relevant properties.
    Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 07/2009; 5:131 - 134.
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    ABSTRACT: We study the distribution of radial velocities of RR Lyrae stars in the same region of the sky where a large overdensity of main sequence stars have been detected by SDSS. Our results indicate that several independent stellar streams co-exist in the region and that some of them may be related with more distant features reported in other works. None of the features we detect seem to be related with the leading tail of the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy.
    05/2009;
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    ABSTRACT: Eighteen RR Lyrae variables (RRLs) that lie in the "124 clump" identified by the Quasar Equatorial Survey Team (QUEST) have been observed spectroscopically to measure their radial velocities and metal abundances. Ten blue horizontal branch (BHB) stars identified by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) were added to this sample. Six of the nine stars in the densest region of the clump have a mean radial velocity in the Galactic rest frame (Vgsr) of 99.8 and σ = 17.3 km s-1, which is slightly smaller than the average error of the measurements. The whole sample contains eight RRLs and five BHB stars that have values of Vgsr suggesting membership in this stream. For seven of these RRLs, the measurements of [Fe/H], which have an internal precision of 0.08 dex, yield [Fe/H] = -1.86 and σ = 0.40. These values suggest that the stream is a tidally disrupted dwarf spheroidal galaxy of low luminosity. Photometry from the database of the SDSS indicates that this stream covers at least 106 deg2 of the sky in the constellation Virgo. The name Virgo stellar stream is suggested.
    The Astrophysical Journal 12/2008; 636(2):L97. · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Using a sample of 43 bright (V < 16.1, distance < 13 kpc) RR Lyrae stars (RRLS) from the QUEST survey with spectroscopic radial velocities and metallicities, we find that several separate halo substructures contribute to the Virgo overdensity (VOD). While there is little evidence for halo substructure in the spatial distribution of these stars, their distribution in radial velocity reveals two moving groups. These results are reinforced when the sample is combined with a sample of blue horizontal branch stars that were identified in the SDSS, and the combined sample provides evidence for one additional moving group. These groups correspond to peaks in the radial velocity distribution of a sample of F type main-sequence stars that was recently observed in the same directon by SEGUE, although in one case the RRLS and F star groups may not lie at the same distance. One of the new substructures has a very narrow range in metallicity, which is more consistent with it being the debris from a destroyed globular cluster than from a dwarf galaxy. A small concentration of stars have radial velocities that are similar to the Virgo Stellar Stream (VSS) that was identified previously in a fainter sample of RRLS. Our results suggest that this feature extends to distances as short as ∼ 12 kpc from its previous detection at ∼ 19 kpc. None of the new groups and only one star in the sample have velocities that are consistent with membership in the leading tidal stream from the Sagittarius Dwarf Spheroidal Galaxy, which some authors have suggested is the origin of the VOD. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation under grants AST 00-98428 and AST 05-07364.
    The Astronomical Journal 01/2008; · 4.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We continue the spectroscopic study of the 12.4 hr clump (Vivas et al. (2001)). Within this large overdensity of our luminous halo we found in 2006 evidence for a new stellar stream, the Virgo Stellar Stream (Duffau et al. (2006)). We report here on the progress of this project and the results obtained from new Magellan data on the area. The Virgo Stellar Stream feature stands and its values of mean radial velocity and metal abundance are better defined.
    01/2007;
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    ABSTRACT: We present VLT spectroscopy of 13 RR Lyrae variables from the QUEST survey that lie in the leading arm of the tidal stream from Sagittarius dSph galaxy. We observed these stars to measure their radial velocities and metal abundances and to complete a sample of stars from the overdensity detected by QUEST in this area of the sky. The full sample contains 42 stars, 29 observed with VLT and 13 observed with GEMINI, we report here the results from the VLT observations so far. We conclude that the new stars and stars reported before by Vivas, Zinn and Gallart (2005) are consistent with belonging to Sgr. We discuss the importance of the final third of the sample, the GEMINI targets, which will provide important constrains on models of the Sgr streams that assume different dark matter halo shapes.
    Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 01/2006; 2.
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    ABSTRACT: One of the new frontiers of astronomical research is the exploration of time variability on the sky at different wavelengths and flux levels. We have carried out a pilot project using DPOSS data to study strong variables and transients, and are now extending it to the new Palomar-QUEST synoptic sky survey. We report on our early findings and outline the methodology to be implemented in preparation for a real-time transient detection pipeline. In addition to large numbers of known types of highly variable sources (e.g., SNe, CVs, OVV QSOs, etc.), we expect to find numerous transients whose nature may be established by a rapid follow-up. Whereas we will make all detected variables publicly available through the web, we anticipate that email alerts would be issued in the real time for a subset of events deemed to be the most interesting. This real-time process entails many challenges, in an effort to maintain a high completeness while keeping the contamination low. We will utilize distributed Grid services developed by the GRIST project, and implement a variety of advanced statistical and machine learning techniques.
    12/2005;
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    ABSTRACT: Exploration of the time variability on the sky over a broad range of flux levels and wavelengths is rapidly becoming a new frontier of astronomical research. We describe here briefly the Palomar-QUEST survey being carried out from the Samuel Oschin 48-inch Schmidt telescope at Palomar. The following features make the survey an attractive candidate for studying time variability: anticipated survey area of 12,000 - 15,000 sq. degrees in the drift scan mode, point source depth of 21st mag. in I under good conditions, near simultaneous observations in four filters, and at least four passes per year at each location covered. The survey will yield a large number of transients and highly variable sources in the near future and in that sense is a prototype of LSST and Pan-STARRS. We briefly outline our strategy for searching such objects and the proposed pipeline for detecting transients in real-time.
    09/2004;
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    ABSTRACT: Discoveries in astronomy are often made through a systematic exploration of previously poorly covered regions of the observable parameter space [1,2]. In particular, exploration of the time variability on the sky over a broad range of ux levels and wavelengths is rapidly becoming a new frontier of astronomical research [3,4]. Many exciting astrophysical phenomena are known in the time domain: all manner of variable stars, stellar explosions such as SNe and GRBs, variable AGN, pulsars, microlensing events, etc. Yet undoubtedly many more remain to be discovered. A number of surveys and experiments exploring the time domain are already in progress (see, e.g., [5,6] for listings), and even more ambitious synoptic sky surveys are being planned, e.g., [7,8]. The important factors in such programs are (1) the area covered, (2) the depth of coverage, (3) number of wavelengths used, and (4) the baseline(s) in time.
    01/2004;

Publication Stats

133 Citations
38.29 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2009–2012
    • Universität Heidelberg
      • Centre for Astronomy (ZAH)
      Heidelburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
  • 2008
    • Yale University
      • Department of Astronomy
      New Haven, Connecticut, United States
  • 2006–2008
    • University of Santiago, Chile
      • Departamento de Economía
      Santiago, Region Metropolitana de Santiago, Chile