The orbital motions of halo stars in the Milky Way reflect the orbital motions of the progenitor systems in which they formed, making it possible to trace the mass-assembly history of the Galaxy. Direct measurement of three-dimensional velocities, based on accurate proper motions and line-of-sight velocities, has revealed that the majority of halo stars in the inner-halo region move in eccentric orbits. However, our understanding of the motions of distant, in situ halo-star samples is still limited, due to the lack of accurate proper motions for these stars. Here we explore a model-independent analysis of the line-of-sight velocities and spatial distribution of a recent sample of 1865 carefully selected halo blue horizontal-branch (BHB) stars within 30 kpc of the Galactic center. We find that the mean rotational velocity of the very metal-poor ([Fe/H] < -2.0) BHB stars significantly lags behind that of the relatively more metal-rich ([Fe/H] > -2.0) BHB stars. We also find that the relatively more metal-rich BHB stars are dominated by stars with eccentric orbits, as previously observed for other stellar samples in the inner-halo region. By contrast, the very metal-poor BHB stars are dominated by stars on rounder, lower-eccentricity orbits. Our results indicate that the motion of the progenitor systems of the Milky Way that contributed to the stellar populations found within 30 kpc correlates directly with their metal abundance, which may be related to their physical properties such as gas fractions. These results are consistent with the existence of an inner/outer halo structure for the halo system, as advocated by Carollo et al.
- Galaxy: evolution
- Galaxy: formation
- Galaxy: halo
- Galaxy: kinematics and dynamics