Proper motions of dwarf spheroidal galaxies from Hubble Space Telescope imaging, III. Measurement for Ursa Minor

Slawomir Piatek, Carlton Pryor, Paul Bristow, Edward W. Olszewski, Hugh C. Harris, Mario Mateo, Dante Minniti, Christopher G. Tinney

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75 Scopus citations


This article presents a measurement of the proper motion of the Ursa Minor dwarf spheroidal galaxy determined from images taken with the Hubble Space Telescope in two distinct fields. Each field contains a quasi-stellar object that serves as the "reference point." The measured proper motion for Ursa Minor, expressed in the equatorial coor-dinate system, is (μ α, μ δ) = (-50 ± 17, 22 ± 16) mas century -1. Removing the contributions of the solar motion and the motion of the local standard of rest yields the proper motion in the Galactic rest frame: (μ α Grf, μ δ Grf) = (-8 ± 17, 38 ± 16) mas century -1. The implied space velocity with respect to the Galactic center has a radial component of V r = -75 ± 44 km s -1 and a tangential component of V t, = 144 ± 50 km s -1. Integrating the motion of Ursa Minor in a realistic potential for the Milky Way produces orbital elements. The perigalacticon and apogalacticon are 40 (10, 76) and 89 (78, 160) kpc, respectively, where the values in the parentheses represent the 95% confidence intervals derived from Monte Carlo experiments. The eccentricity of the orbit is 0.39 (0.09, 0.79), and the orbital period is 1.5 (1.1, 2.7) Gyr. The orbit is retrograde and inclined by 124° (94°, 136°) to the Galactic plane. Ursa Minor is not a likely member of a proposed stream of galaxies on similar orbits around the Milky Way, nor is the plane of its orbit coincident with a recently proposed planar alignment of galaxies around the Milky Way. Comparing the orbits of Ursa Minor and Carina shows no reason for the different star formation histories of these two galaxies. Ursa Minor must contain dark matter to have a high probability of having survived disruption by the Galactic tidal force until the present.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-115
Number of pages21
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Astrometry
  • Galaxies: dwarf
  • Galaxies: individual (Ursa Minor)


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