Stellar dynamics in the Galactic Centre: proper motions and anisotropy


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We report a new analysis of the stellar dynamics in the Galactic Centre, based on improved sky and line-of-sight velocities for more than 100 stars in the central few arcseconds from the black hole candidate SgrA*. The main results are as follows.

(1) Overall, the stellar motions do not deviate strongly from isotropy. For those 32 stars with a determination of all three velocity components, the absolute, line-of-sight and sky velocities are in good agreement, consistent with a spherical star cluster. Likewise the sky-projected radial and tangential velocities of all 104 proper motion stars in our sample are also consistent with overall isotropy.

(2) However, the sky-projected velocity components of the young, early-type stars in our sample indicate significant deviations from isotropy, with a strong radial dependence. Most of the bright He i emission-line stars at separations from 1 to 10 arcsec from SgrA* are on tangential orbits. This tangential anisotropy of the He i stars and most of the brighter members of the IRS 16 complex is largely caused by a clockwise (on the sky) and counter-rotating (line of sight, compared to the Galaxy), coherent rotation pattern. The overall rotation of the young star cluster may be a remnant of the original angular momentum pattern in the interstellar cloud from which these stars were formed.

(3) The fainter, fast-moving stars within ≈1 arcsec of SgrA* may be largely moving on radial or very elliptical orbits. We have so far not detected deviations from linear motion (i.e., acceleration) for any of them. Most of the SgrA* cluster members are also on clockwise orbits. Spectroscopy indicates that they are early-type stars. We propose that the SgrA* cluster stars are those members of the early-type cluster that happen to have small angular momentum, and thus can plunge to the immediate vicinity of SgrA*.

(4) We derive an anisotropy-independent estimate of the Sun–Galactic Centre distance between 7.8 and 8.2 kpc, with a formal statistical uncertainty of ±0.9 kpc.

(5) We explicitly include velocity anisotropy in estimating the central mass distribution. We show how Leonard–Merritt and Bahcall–Tremaine mass estimates give systematic offsets in the inferred mass of the central object when applied to finite concentric rings for power-law clusters. Corrected Leonard–Merritt projected mass estimators and Jeans equation modelling confirm previous conclusions (from isotropic models) that a compact central mass concentration (central density ≥1012.6 M pc−3) is present and dominates the potential between 0.01 and 1 pc. Depending on the modelling method used, the derived central mass ranges between 2.6×106 and 3.3×106 M for R=8.0 kpc.