The extended structure of the dwarf irregular galaxies Sextans A and Sextans B. Signatures of tidal distortion in the outskirts of the Local Group

M. Bellazzini, G. Beccari, F. Fraternali, T. A. Oosterloo, A. Sollima, V. Testa, S. Galleti, S. Perina, M. Faccini, F. Cusano

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We present a detailed study of the stellar and H i structure of the dwarf irregular galaxies Sextans A and Sextans B, members of the NGC 3109 association. We use newly obtained deep (r ≃ 26.5) and wide-field g and r photometry to extend the surface brightness (SB) profiles of the two galaxies down to μV ≃ 31.0 mag/arcsec2. We find that both galaxies are significantly more extended than previously traced with surface photometry, out to ~4 kpc from their centres along their major axes. Older stars are found to have more extended distribution than younger populations. We obtain the first estimate of the mean metallicity for the old stars in Sex B, from the colour distribution of the red giant branch, ⟨[Fe/H]⟩ = -1.6. The SB profiles show significant changes of slope and cannot be fitted with a single Sérsic model. Both galaxies have HI discs as massive as their respective stellar components. In both cases the H i discs display solid-body rotation with maximum amplitude of ~50 km s-1 (albeit with significant uncertainty due to the poorly constrained inclination), implying a dynamical mass ~109 M⊙, a mass-to-light ratio M / LV ~ 25, and a dark-to-baryonic mass ratio of ~10. The distribution of the stellar components is more extended than the gaseous disc in both galaxies. We find that the main, approximately round, stellar body of Sex A is surrounded by an elongated low-SB stellar halo that can be interpreted as a tidal tail, similar to that found in another member of the same association (Antlia). We discuss these, as well as other evidence of tidal disturbance, in the framework of a past passage of the NGC 3109 association close to the Milky Way, which has been hypothesised by several authors and is also supported by the recently discovered filamentary configuration of the association itself. Appendices are available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.orgTable of stellar photometry is only available at the CDS via anonymous ftp to ( or via on data acquired using the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT). The LBT is an international collaboration among institutions in the United States, Italy, and Germany. LBT Corporation partners are The University of Arizona on behalf of the Arizona university system; Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, Italy; LBT Beteiligungsgesellschaft, Germany, representing the Max-Planck Society, the Astrophysical Institute Potsdam, and Heidelberg University; The Ohio State University; and The Research Corporation, on behalf of The University of Notre Dame, University of Minnesota and University of Virginia.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberA44
Number of pages16
JournalAstronomy and astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - Jun-2014


  • galaxies: dwarf
  • Local Group
  • galaxies: structure
  • galaxies: ISM
  • galaxies: stellar content

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