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Surface Brightness Profile of the Milky Way's Nuclear Star Cluster


Amaro-Seoane,  P.
Astrophysical Relativity, AEI-Golm, MPI for Gravitational Physics, Max Planck Society;

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Schodel, R., Feldmeier, A., Kunneriath, D., Stolovy, S., Neumayer, N., Amaro-Seoane, P., et al. (2014). Surface Brightness Profile of the Milky Way's Nuclear Star Cluster. Astronomy and Astrophysics, 566: A47. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201423481.

In this paper we aim at determining the shape, size, and luminosity/mass of the Milky Way Nuclear Star Cluster (MWNSC). We use Spitzer/IRAC images at 3.6 and 4.5 micrometer, where interstellar extinction is at a minimum but the overall emission is still dominated by stars. We correct the 4.5 micrometer image for PAH emission with the help of the IRAC 8.0 micrometer map and for extinction with the help of a [3.6-4.5] colour map. We present an extinction map for the central ~300x200 pc^2 of the Milky Way, as well as a PAH-emission and extinction corrected image of the stellar emission, with a resolution of about 0.2 pc. We find that the MWNSC appears in projection intrinsically point-symmetric, that it is significantly flattened, with its major axis aligned along the Galactic Plane, and that it is centred on the black hole, Sagittarius A*. Its density follows the well known approximate rho~r^{-2}-law at distances of a few parsecs from Sagittarius A*, but may become as steep as rho~r^{-3} at projected radii around 5 pc. We derive a half light radius of 4.2+-0.4 pc, a total luminosity of L_MWNSC=(4.1+-0.4)x10^{7} L_Sun, and a mass of M_{MWNSC}=(2.5+-0.4)x10^{7} M_Sun. The overall properties of the MWNSC agree well with the ones of its extragalactic counterparts, which underlines its role as a template for these objects. Its flattening agrees well with its previously established rotation parallel to Galactic rotation and suggests that it has formed by accretion of material that fell in preferentially along the Galactic Plane. Our findings support the in situ growth scenario for nuclear clusters and emphasize the need to increase the complexity of theoretical models for their formation and for the interaction between their stars and the central black hole in order to include rotation, axisymmetry, and growth in recurrent episodes.