A 3D view of dwarf galaxies with Gaia and VLT/FLAMES. I. The Sculptor dwarf spheroidal

Eline Tolstoy, Ása Skúladóttir, Giuseppina Battaglia, Anthony G. A. Brown, Davide Massari, Michael J. Irwin, Else Starkenburg, Stefania Salvadori, Vanessa Hill, Pascale Jablonka, Maurizio Salaris, Thom van Essen, Carla Olsthoorn, Amina Helmi, John Pritchard

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We present a new homogeneous survey of VLT/FLAMES LR8 line-of-sight radial velocities (vlos) for 1604 resolved red giant branch stars in the Sculptor dwarf spheroidal galaxy. In addition, we provide reliable Ca II triplet metallicities, [Fe/H], for 1339 of these stars. From this combination of new observations (2257 individual spectra) with ESO archival data (2389 spectra), we obtain the largest and most complete sample of vlos and [Fe/H] measurements for individual stars in any dwarf galaxy. Our sample includes VLT/FLAMES LR8 spectra for ∼55% of the red giant branch stars at G < 20 from Gaia DR3, and > 70% of the brightest stars, G < 18.75. Our spectroscopic velocities are combined with Gaia DR3 proper motions and parallax measurements for a new and more precise membership analysis. We look again at the global characteristics of Sculptor, deriving a mean metallicity of ⟨[Fe/H]⟩ = −1.82 ± 0.45 and a mean line-of-sight velocity of ⟨vlos⟩ = + 111.2 ± 0.25 km s−1. There is a clear metallicity gradient in Sculptor, −0.7deg dex−1, with the most metal-rich population being the most centrally concentrated. Furthermore, the most metal-poor population in Sculptor, [Fe/H]< − 2.5, appears to show kinematic properties distinct from the rest of the stellar population. Finally, we combine our results with the exquisite Gaia DR3 multi-colour photometry to further investigate the colour-magnitude diagram of the resolved stellar population in Sculptor. Our detailed analysis shows a similar global picture as previous studies, but with much more precise detail, revealing that Sculptor has more complex properties than previously thought. This survey emphasises the role of the stellar spectroscopy technique and this galaxy as a benchmark system for modelling galaxy formation and evolution on small scales.

Full Tables E.1 and E.2 are only available at the CDS via anonymous ftp to cdsarc.cds.unistra.fr ( or via https://cdsarc.cds.unistra.fr/viz-bin/cat/J/A+A/675/A49

Based on VLT/FLAMES observations collected at the European Organisation for Astronomical Research (ESO) in the Southern Hemisphere under programmes 171.B-0588, 072.D-0245, 076.B-0391, 079.B-0435, 593.D-0309, 098.D-0160, 0100.B-0337, 0101.D-0210, 0101.B-0189, and 0102.B-0786.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberA49
Number of pages28
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 1-Jul-2023


  • galaxies: dwarf
  • galaxies: individual: Sculptor dwarf spheroidal
  • stars: abundances
  • galaxies: evolution
  • Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies


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