Laura L. Watkins

Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland, United States

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Publications (17)64.17 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: We present dynamical distance estimates for 15 Galactic globular clusters and use these to check the consistency of dynamical and photometric distance estimates. For most of the clusters, this is the first dynamical distance estimate ever determined. We extract proper-motion dispersion profiles using cleaned samples of bright stars from the Hubble Space Telescope proper-motion catalogs recently presented in Bellini et al. (2014) and compile a set of line-of-sight velocity-dispersion profiles from a variety of literature sources. Distances are then estimated by fitting spherical, non-rotating, isotropic, constant mass-to-light (M/L) dynamical models to the proper-motion and line-of-sight dispersion profiles together. We compare our dynamical distance estimates with literature photometric estimates from the Harris (1996, 2010 edition) globular cluster catalog and find that the mean fractional difference between the two types is consistent with zero at just $-1.9 \pm 1.7 \%$. This indicates that there are no significant biases in either estimation method and provides an important validation of the stellar-evolution theory that underlies photometric distance estimates. The analysis also estimates dynamical M/L ratios for our clusters; on average, the dynamically-inferred M/L ratios agree with existing stellar-population-based M/L ratios that assume a Chabrier initial mass function (IMF) to within $-8.8 \pm 6.4 \%$, implying that such an IMF is consistent with our data. Our results are also consistent with a Kroupa IMF, but strongly rule out a Salpeter IMF. We detect no correlation between our M/L offsets from literature values and our distance offsets from literature values, strongly indicating that our methods are reliable and our results are robust.
    No preview · Article · Sep 2015 · The Astrophysical Journal
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    ABSTRACT: We present kinematical analyses of 22 Galactic globular clusters using the Hubble Space Telescope proper motion (HSTPROMO) catalogues recently presented in Bellini et al. (2014). For most clusters, this is the first proper-motion study ever performed, and, for many, this is the most detailed kinematic study of any kind. We use cleaned samples of bright stars to determine binned velocity-dispersion and velocity-anisotropy radial profiles and two-dimensional velocity-dispersion spatial maps. Using these profiles, we search for correlations between cluster kinematics and structural properties. We find that: (1) more centrally-concentrated clusters have steeper radial velocity-dispersion profiles; (2) on average, at 1\sigma confidence in two dimensions, the photometric and kinematic centres of globular clusters agree to within ~1", with a cluster-to-cluster rms of 4" (including observational uncertainties); (3) on average, the cores of globular clusters have isotropic velocity distributions to within 1% (\sigma_t/\sigma_r = 0.992 +/- 0.005), with a cluster-to-cluster rms of 2% (including observational uncertainties); (4) clusters generally have mildly radially anisotropic velocity distributions (\sigma_t/\sigma_r ~ 0.8-1.0) near the half-mass radius, with bigger deviations from isotropy for clusters with longer relaxation times; (5) there is a relation between \sigma_minor/\sigma_major and ellipticity, such that the more flattened clusters in the sample tend to be more anisotropic, with \sigma_minor/\sigma_major ~ 0.9-1.0. Aside from these general results and correlations, the profiles and maps presented here can provide a basis for detailed dynamical modelling of individual globular clusters. Given the quality of the data, this is likely to provide new insights into a range of topics concerning globular cluster mass profiles, structure, and dynamics.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2015 · The Astrophysical Journal
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    ABSTRACT: We present the first study of high-precision internal proper motions (PMs) in a large sample of globular clusters, based on Hubble Space Telescope (HST) data obtained over the past decade with the ACS/WFC, ACS/HRC, and WFC3/UVIS instruments. We determine PMs for over 1.3 million stars in the central regions of 22 clusters, with a median number of ~60,000 stars per cluster. These PMs have the potential to significantly advance our understanding of the internal kinematics of globular clusters by extending past line-of-sight (LOS) velocity measurements to two- or three-dimensional velocities, lower stellar masses, and larger sample sizes. We describe the reduction pipeline that we developed to derive homogeneous PMs from the very heterogeneous archival data. We demonstrate the quality of the measurements through extensive Monte-Carlo simulations. We also discuss the PM errors introduced by various systematic effects, and the techniques that we have developed to correct or remove them to the extent possible. We provide in electronic form the catalog for NGC 7078 (M 15), which consists of 77,837 stars in the central 2.4 arcmin. We validate the catalog by comparison with existing PM measurements and LOS velocities, and use it to study the dependence of the velocity dispersion on radius, stellar magnitude (or mass) along the main sequence, and direction in the plane of the sky (radial/tangential). Subsequent papers in this series will explore a range of applications in globular-cluster science, and will also present the PM catalogs for the other sample clusters.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2014 · The Astrophysical Journal
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    Alex Büdenbender · Glenn van de Ven · Laura L. Watkins
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    ABSTRACT: Accurate determination of the local dark matter density is important for understanding the nature and distribution of dark matter in the universe. This requires that the local velocity distribution is characterised correctly. Here, we present a kinematic study of 16,276 SEGUE G-type dwarf stars in the solar neighbourhood, with which we determine the shape of the velocity ellipsoid in the meridional plane. We separate our G-dwarf stars based on their [Fe/H] and [alpha/Fe] abundances and estimate the best-fitting Milky Way model independently for each sub-sample using a maximum-likelihood method that accounts for possible contaminants. We show that the different subpopulations yield consistent results only when we allow the velocity ellipsoid in the disk to be tilted, demonstrating that the common assumption of decoupled radial and vertical motions in the disk is incorrect. Further, we the find that the tilt angle alpha of the velocity ellipsoid increases with height |z| from 5{\deg} at 0.5 kpc to 14{\deg} at 2.0 kpc, consistent with pointing toward the Galactic centre at an angle tan(alpha) ~ |z|/R. We also confirm earlier findings that the subpopulations behave almost isothermally both radially and vertically, about 39 (20) km/s for the chemically-young, metal-rich disk stars to about 60 (48) km/s for the chemically-old, metal-poor disk stars. We conclude that the coupling between radial and vertical motion captured in the velocity ellipsoid tilt cannot be ignored when considering dynamical models of the solar neighbourhood. In a subsequent paper, we will develop a new modelling scheme informed by these results and make an improved determination of the local dark matter density.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2014 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: Globular clusters come in a variety of flavours; their different components and different evolution histories leave imprints on their internal dynamics, which makes dynamical modelling a valuable tool for understanding their properties. Velocity dispersion profiles and mass profiles are key when investigating energy equipartition and core collapse or when hunting for intermediate mass black holes. Proper motion data are particularly useful as they provide two velocity components, which allows us to determine anisotropy profiles as well. From analyses by Bellini et al. carried out in the context of the HST Proper Motion (HSTPROMO) collaboration we now have HST proper motion data for some two dozen Galactic globular clusters. Each dataset typically contains proper motion data with accuracies of order 1 km/s for tens of thousands of stars within the central arcminute. We have developed new modelling techniques specifically designed to work with large, high-quality, discrete datasets of this nature, which we have successfully tested and applied to omega Centauri. We will briefly discuss our modelling efforts and then present some preliminary results for the new HST datasets, including velocity dispersion profiles, mass profiles, and energy equipartition.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2014
  • Laura L. Watkins · Glenn van de Ven · Mark den Brok · R ~C ~E Bosch
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    ABSTRACT: We present a new framework for modelling discrete kinematic data. Current techniques typically involve binning. Our approach works directly with the discrete data and uses maximum-likelihood methods to assess the probability of the data set given model predictions. We avoid making hard cuts on the data sets by allowing for a contaminating population in our models. We apply our models to discrete proper motion and line-of-sight velocity data of Galactic globular cluster ω Centauri and find a mildly radial velocity anisotropy β = 0.10 ± 0.02, an inclination angle i = 50° ± 1°, a V-band mass-to-light ratio $\Upsilon = 2.71 \pm 0.05 \; \rm M_{\odot }/ \rm L_{\odot }$ and a distance d = 4.59 ± 0.08 kpc. All parameters are in agreement with previous studies, demonstrating the feasibility of our methods. We find that the models return lower distances and higher mass-to-light ratios than expected when we include proper motion stars with high errors or for which there is some blending. We believe this not a fault of our models but is instead due to underestimates or missing systematic uncertainties in the provided errors.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2013 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: We analyse line-of-sight velocity and proper motion data of stars in the Galactic globular cluster M15 using a new method to fit dynamical models to discrete kinematic data. Our fitting method maximizes the likelihood for individual stars and, as such, does not suffer the same loss of spatial and velocity information incurred when spatially binning data or measuring velocity moments. In this paper, we show that the radial variation in M15 of the mass-to-light ratio is consistent with previous estimates and theoretical predictions, which verifies our method. Our best-fitting axisymmetric Jeans models do include a central dark mass of ∼2 ± 1 × 103 M⊙, which can be explained by a high concentration of stellar remnants at the cluster centre. This paper shows that, from a technical point of view and with current computing power, spatial binning of data is no longer necessary. This not only leads to more accurate fits, but also avoids biased mass estimates due to the loss of resolution. Furthermore, we find that the mass concentration in M15 is significantly higher than previously measured, and is in close agreement with theoretical predictions for core-collapsed globular clusters without a central intermediate-mass black hole.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2013 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has proven to be uniquely suited for the measurement of proper motions (PMs) of stars and galaxies in the nearby Universe. Here we summarize the main results and ongoing studies of the HSTPROMO collaboration, which over the past decade has executed some two dozen observational and theoretical HST projects on this topic. This is continuing to revolutionize our dynamical understanding of many objects, including: globular clusters; young star clusters; stars and stellar streams in the Milky Way halo; Local Group galaxies, including dwarf satellite galaxies, the Magellanic Clouds, and the Andromeda galaxy; and AGN Black Hole Jets.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2013
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    ABSTRACT: We present a new framework for modelling discrete kinematic data. Current techniques typically involve binning. Our approach works directly with the discrete data and uses maximum-likelihood methods to assess the probability of the dataset given model predictions. We avoid making hard cuts on the datasets by allowing for a contaminating population in our models. We apply our models to discrete proper-motion and line-of-sight-velocity data of Galactic globular cluster omega Centauri and find a mildly radial velocity anisotropy beta = 0.10 +/- 0.02, an inclination angle i = 50 +/- 1 deg, a V-band mass-to-light ratio Upsilon = 2.71 +/- 0.05 Msun/Lsun and a distance d = 4.59 +/- 0.08 kpc. All parameters are in agreement with previous studies, demonstrating the feasibility of our methods. We find that the models return lower distances and higher mass-to-light ratios than expected when we include proper motion stars with high errors or for which there is some blending. We believe this not a fault of our models but is instead due to underestimates or missing systematic uncertainties in the provided errors.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2013
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    Laura L. Watkins · N. Wyn Evans · Glenn van de Ven
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    ABSTRACT: We present an analysis of the dynamics of the M31 satellite system. Proper motion data exist for only two of the M31 satellites. We account for this incompleteness in velocity data by a statistical analysis using a combination of the timing argument and phase-space distribution functions. The bulk of the M31 satellites are well fit by these models and we offer a table of orbital properties, including period, eccentricity and semi-major axis. This enables us to search for evidence of group infall based on orbital similarity rather than propinquity on the sky. Our results favour an association between Cass II and NGC 185, as the orbital parameters are in close agreement, but not for NGC 185 and NGC 147, which have often been associated in the past. Other possible satellite groupings include the pair And I and And XVII; the pair And IX and And X; and the triple And V, And XXV and NGC 147. And XXII has been claimed as a satellite of M33; we find that they are not moving independently along the same orbit, but cannot determine whether they are orbiting each other or are unrelated. Two satellites, And XII and And XIV, have high line-of-sight velocities, consistent with very recent infall from the edge of the Local Group. They are not well described by our underlying smooth phase space distribution function, and are reanalysed without priors on their orbital parameters. For And XIV, multiple pericentric passages are possible and improved distance information is needed to draw further conclusions. For And XII, orbits which assume at least one pericentric passage can be ruled out and it must be on its first infall into the M31 system.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2012 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: We present VLT/FORS2 spectroscopy of candidate blue horizontal branch (BHB) stars in the vicinity of the Hercules ultrafaint dwarf galaxy. We identify eight convincing Hercules BHB members, and a further five stars with similar systemic velocities to that of Hercules, but ~ 0.5 kpc from the centre of the galaxy along its major axis. It is likely that these stars once belonged to Hercules, but have been tidally stripped and are now unbound. We emphasise the usefulness of looking for any gradient in the systemic velocity of this stretched system, which would further support our interpretation of the origin of its elongated and distended morphology.
    Preview · Article · Jul 2012 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

  • No preview · Article · Apr 2012
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    Laura L. Watkins
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    ABSTRACT: Using a sample of 407 RR Lyrae stars extracted from SDSS Stripe 82, we study the degree of substructure in the Galactic halo. We identify overdensities associated with the known substructures of the Hercules-Aquila Cloud and the Sagittarius Stream, and find a further previously-unknown substructure, the Pisces Overdensity, at ~100 kpc from the Sun. Together, the three substructures account for ~80% of our RR Lyrae sample. We also study the density distribution of RR Lyraes in the halo and find that the profile is best fit by a broken power law with an inner slope of -2.4 and a break radius of ~25 kpc, consistent with previous studies. We conclude that the halo is predominantly made up of the debris from in-falling satellites, with little or no underlying smooth component.
    Preview · Article · Nov 2011 · The European Physical Journal Conferences
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    Laura L. Watkins · N. Wyn Evans · Jin H. An
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    ABSTRACT: We present a family of robust tracer mass estimators to compute the enclosed mass of galaxy haloes from samples of discrete positional and kinematical data of tracers, such as halo stars, globular clusters and dwarf satellites. The data may be projected positions, distances, line of sight velocities or proper motions. Forms of the estimator tailored for the Milky Way galaxy and for M31 are given. Monte Carlo simulations are used to quantify the uncertainty as a function of sample size. For the Milky Way, the satellite sample consists of 26 galaxies with line-of-sight velocities. We find that the mass of the Milky Way within 300 kpc is ~ 0.9 x 10^12 solar masses assuming velocity isotropy. However, the mass estimate is sensitive to the anisotropy and could plausibly lie between 0.7 - 3.4 x 10^12 solar masses. Incorporating the proper motions of 6 Milky Way satellites into the dataset, we find ~ 1.4 x 10^12 solar masses. The range here if plausible anisotropies are used is still broader, from 1.2 - 2.7 x 10^12 solar masses. For M31, there are 23 satellite galaxies with measured line-of-sight velocities, but only M33 and IC 10 have proper motions. We use the line of sight velocities and distances of the satellite galaxies to estimate the mass of M31 within 300 kpc as ~ 1.4 x 10^12 solar masses assuming isotropy. There is only a modest dependence on anisotropy, with the mass varying between 1.3 -1.6 x 10^12 solar masses. Given the uncertainties, we conclude that the satellite data by themselves yield no reliable insights into which of the two galaxies is actually the more massive.
    Preview · Article · Jul 2010 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: We report the discovery of two new Milky Way satellites in the neighboring constellations of Pisces and Pegasus identified in data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Pisces II, an ultra-faint dwarf galaxy lies at the distance of ~180 kpc, some 15 degrees away from the recently detected Pisces I. Segue 3, an ultra-faint star cluster lies at the distance of 16 kpc. We use deep follow-up imaging obtained with the 4-m Mayall telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory to derive their structural parameters. Pisces II has a half-light radius of ~60 pc, while Segue 3 is twenty times smaller at only 3pc.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2010 · The Astrophysical Journal Letters
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    ABSTRACT: We present an analysis of the substructure revealed by RRLyraes in Sloan Digital Sky Survey Stripe 82, which covers in declination on the celestial equator over the right ascension range to . We use the new public archive of light-motion curves in Stripe 82, published by Bramich et al. in 2008, to identify a set of high-quality RRLyrae candidates. Period estimates are determined to high accuracy using a string-length method. A subset of 178 RRLyraes with spectrally derived metallicities are employed to derive metallicity-period-amplitude relations, which are then used, together with archive magnitude data and light-curve Fourier decomposition, to estimate metallicities and hence distances for the entire sample. The RRLyraes lie 5-115kpc from the Galactic Centre, with distance estimates accurate to ~8 per cent. The RRLyraes are further divided into subsets of 316 RRab types and 91 RRc types based on their period, colour and metallicity. We fit a smooth density law to the distribution as a simple representation of the data. For Galactocentric radii 5-25kpc the number density of RRLyraes falls as r-2.4, but beyond 25kpc, the number density falls much more steeply, as r-4.5. However, we stress that in practice the density distribution is not smooth, but dominated by clumps and substructure. Samples of 55 and 237 RRLyraes associated with the Sagittarius Stream and the Hercules-Aquila Cloud, respectively, are identified. Hence, ~70 per cent of the RRLyraes in Stripe 82 belong to known substructure, and the sharp break in the density law reflects the fact that the dominant substructure in Stripe 82 - the Hercules-Aquila Cloud and the Sagittarius Stream - lie within 40kpc. In fact, almost 60 per cent of all the RRLyraes in Stripe 82 are associated with the Hercules-Aquila Cloud alone, which emphasizes the cloud's pre-eminence. Additionally, evidence of a new and distant substructure - the Pisces Overdensity - is found, consisting of 28 faint RRLyraes centred on Galactic coordinates (l ~ 80°, b ~ -55°), with distances of ~80kpc. The total stellar mass in the Pisces Overdensity is ~104Msolar and its metallicity is [Fe/H] ~ -1.5.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2009 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: We present a new public archive of light-motion curves in Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) Stripe 82, covering 99° in right ascension from to and spanning in declination from to , for a total sky area of ∼249 deg2. Stripe 82 has been repeatedly monitored in the u, g, r, i and z bands over a seven-year baseline. Objects are cross-matched between runs, taking into account the effects of any proper motion. The resulting catalogue contains almost 4 million light-motion curves of stellar objects and galaxies. The photometry are recalibrated to correct for varying photometric zero-points, achieving ∼20 and 30 mmag rms accuracy down to 18 mag in the g, r, i and z bands for point sources and extended sources, respectively. The astrometry are recalibrated to correct for inherent systematic errors in the SDSS astrometric solutions, achieving ∼32 and 35 mas rms accuracy down to 18 mag for point sources and extended sources, respectively. For each light-motion curve, 229 photometric and astrometric quantities are derived and stored in a higher level catalogue. On the photometric side, these include mean exponential and point spread function (PSF) magnitudes along with uncertainties, rms scatter, χ2 per degree of freedom, various magnitude distribution percentiles, object type (stellar or galaxy), and eclipse, Stetson and Vidrih variability indices. On the astrometric side, these quantities include mean positions, proper motions as well as their uncertainties and χ2 per degree of freedom. The light-motion curve catalogue presented here is complete down to r∼ 21.5 and is at present the deepest large-area photometric and astrometric variability catalogue available.
    Full-text · Article · May 2008 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Publication Stats

413 Citations
64.17 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2014-2015
    • Space Telescope Science Institute
      Baltimore, Maryland, United States
  • 2013
    • Max Planck Institute for Astronomy
      Heidelburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
  • 2008-2012
    • University of Cambridge
      • Institute of Astronomy
      Cambridge, England, United Kingdom