A Bayesian approach to locating the red giant branch tip magnitude. II. Distances to the satellites of m31

A. R. Conn*, R. A. Ibata, G. F. Lewis, Q. A. Parker, D. B. Zucker, N. F. Martin, A. W. McConnachie, M. J. Irwin, N. Tanvir, M. A. Fardal, A. M. N. Ferguson, S. C. Chapman, D. Valls-Gabaud

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Citations (Scopus)


In "A Bayesian Approach to Locating the Red Giant Branch Tip Magnitude (Part I)," a new technique was introduced for obtaining distances using the tip of the red giant branch (TRGB) standard candle. Here we describe a useful complement to the technique with the potential to further reduce the uncertainty in our distance measurements by incorporating a matched-filter weighting scheme into the model likelihood calculations. In this scheme, stars are weighted according to their probability of being true object members. We then re-test our modified algorithm using random-realization artificial data to verify the validity of the generated posterior probability distributions (PPDs) and proceed to apply the algorithm to the satellite system of M31, culminating in a three-dimensional view of the system. Further to the distributions thus obtained, we apply a satellite-specific prior on the satellite distances to weight the resulting distance posterior distributions, based on the halo density profile. Thus in a single publication, using a single method, a comprehensive coverage of the distances to the companion galaxies of M31 is presented, encompassing the dwarf spheroidals Andromedas I-III, V, IX-XXVII, and XXX along with NGC147, NGC185, M33, and M31 itself. Of these, the distances to Andromedas XXIV-XXVII and Andromeda XXX have never before been derived using the TRGB. Object distances are determined from high-resolution tip magnitude posterior distributions generated using the Markov Chain Monte Carlo technique and associated sampling of these distributions to take into account uncertainties in foreground extinction and the absolute magnitude of the TRGB as well as photometric errors. The distance PPDs obtained for each object both with and without the aforementioned prior are made available to the reader in tabular form. The large object coverage takes advantage of the unprecedented size and photometric depth of the Pan-Andromeda Archaeological Survey. Finally, a preliminary investigation into the satellite density distribution within the halo is made using the obtained distance distributions. For simplicity, this investigation assumes a single power law for the density as a function of radius, with the slope of this power law examined for several subsets of the entire satellite sample.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2012


  • galaxies: general
  • galaxies: stellar content
  • local group


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