Identifying RR Lyrae Variable Stars in Six Years of the Dark Energy Survey

DES Collaboration, D. Bacon, B. Hoyle, D. Thomas

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We present a search for RR Lyrae stars using the full six-year data set from the Dark Energy Survey (DES) covering ~5,000 sq. deg. of the southern sky. Using a multi-stage multi-variate classification and light curve template-fitting scheme, we identify RR Lyrae candidates with a median of 35 observations per candidate. We detect 6,971 RR Lyrae candidates out to ~335 kpc, and we estimate that our sample is >70% complete at ~150 kpc. We find excellent agreement with other wide-area RR Lyrae catalogs and RR Lyrae studies targeting the Magellanic Clouds and other Milky Way satellite galaxies. We fit the smooth stellar halo density profile using a broken-power-law model with fixed halo flattening (q = 0.7), and we find strong evidence for a break at R0=32.1+1.1−0.9 kpc with an inner slope of n1=−2.54+0.09−0.09 and an outer slope of n2=−5.42+0.13−0.14. We use our catalog to perform a search for Milky Way satellite galaxies with large sizes and low luminosities. Using a set of simulated satellite galaxies, we find that our RR Lyrae-based search is more sensitive than those using resolved stellar populations in the regime of large (rh>500 pc), low-surface-brightness dwarf galaxies. A blind search for large, diffuse satellites yields three candidate substructures. The first can be confidently associated with the dwarf galaxy Eridanus II. The second has a similar distance and proper motion to the ultra-faint dwarf galaxy Tucana II but is separated by ~5 deg. The third is close in projection to the globular cluster NGC 1851 but is ~10 kpc more distant and appears to differ in proper motion.
Original languageEnglish
Article number109
Number of pages26
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2021


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