Ultra-Compact High Velocity Clouds In The ALFALFA HI Survey: Candidate Local Group Galaxies?

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The increased sensitivity and spatial resolution of the ALFALFA HI survey has resulted in the detection of ultra-compact high velocity clouds (UCHVCs). These objects are good candidates to represent low mass gas-rich galaxies in the Local Group and Local Volume with stellar populations that are too faint to be detected in extant optical surveys. This idea is referred to as the "minihalo hypothesis". We identify the UCHVCs within the ALFALFA dataset via the use of a 3D matched filtering signal identification algorithm. UCHVCs are selected based on a compact size (< 30′ ), separation from Galactic HI (| vLSR | > 120 km s[-]1 ) and isolation. Within the 40% complete ALFALFA survey ([alpha].40), 59 UCHVCs are identified; 19 are in a most-isolated subset and are the best galaxy candidates. Due to the presence of large HVC complexes in the fall sky, most notably the Magellanic Stream, the association of UCHVCs with existing structure cannot be ruled out. In the spring sky, the spatial and kinematic distribution of the UCHVCs is consistent with simulations of dark matter halos within the Local Group. In addition, the HI properties of the UCHVCs (if placed at 1 Mpc) are consistent with both theoretical and observational predictions for low mass gas-rich galaxies. Importantly, the HI properties of the UCHVCs are consistent with those of two recently discovered low mass gas-rich galaxies in the Local Group and Local Volume, Leo T and Leo P. Detailed follow-up observations are key for addressing the minihalo hypothe- sis. High resolution HI observations can constrain the environment of a UCHVC and offer evidence for a hosting dark matter halo through evidence of rotation support and comparison to theoretical models. Observations of one UCHVC at high resolution (15′′ ) reveal the presence of a clumpy HI distribution, similar to both low mass galaxies and circumgalactic compact HVCs. An extended envelope containing ~ 50% of the HI flux is resolved out by the array configuration; observations at lower spatial resolution can recover this envelope and constrain the overall morphology and environment. The most direct way to address the minihalo hypothesis is by detection of a stellar counterpart, immediately identifying a UCHVC as a galaxy and allowing a distance to be measured. We have selected a sample of best galaxy candidates from the UCHVCs based on isolation, compactness, surface brightness, and kinematics. We are undertaking targeted optical observations of these systems in two filters to conduct a focused search for a coherent stellar population. Observations are in-hand for 29 systems, and an analysis of a single system is presented as a test case. These data were obtained via "shared-risk" observing, and analysis for all systems is awaiting further pipeline development. If (some of) the UCHVCs represent nearby low mass galaxies, they will help us understand the evolution of the lowest mass galaxies and address the small scale crisis in cosmology. Understanding the nature of the UCHVCs is a complicated and ongoing project. Both optical and HI synthesis imaging data will continue to be acquired and analyzed in order to address the minihalo hypothesis. Future HI surveys of nearby galaxy groups will be able to robustly address the minihalo hypothesis by being sensitive to UCHVCs in other galaxy groups.

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galaxies: dwarf; Local Group; radio lines: galaxies


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Union Local


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Haynes, Martha Patricia

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Chernoff, David Fisher
Wasserman, Ira M
Giovanelli, Riccardo

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Ph. D., Astronomy

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document




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dissertation or thesis

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