The Tidal Features of the Magellanic Cloud System
Bagheri, Gemma Louise
The Magellanic System at a distance of 50 kpc from the Milky Way (MW), is a prime target in the study of stellar populations, star formation histories and galactic dynamics in low metallicity environments. The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) and Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) have been observed in great depth, however there has been somewhat less interest in the Magellanic Bridge connecting the two and only more recently has the interest surged in the Magellanic Stream, which trails the Clouds between them and the MW. The Magellanic Bridge has a known younger stellar population dating back to Irwin’s observations (Irwin et al., 1990), only more recently has an older population been confirmed in the Bridge by Bagheri et al. (2013) and No¨el et al. (2013), while the Magellanic Stream is known to contain gas only with no stellar component. The estimated ages of the Bridge and Stream are 200 Myr (Bekki, 2007) and 2 Gyr (Diaz and Bekki, 2012) respectively, with the postulated Bridge formation from a tidal interaction between the Clouds. The formation of the Stream is less well understood with different models using varying assumptions and parameters such as Besla et al. (2012) and Nidever et al. (2010), including possibilities that the Clouds were historically bound or un-bound, and that the MW may or may not have been involved in the Stream formation. The work in this thesis makes use of different methods of removing the Galactic foreground population in the direction of the Magellanic Bridge and Stream to create cleaned catalogues of these regions. Various methods of analysis are applied to the cleaned catalogues in this work to identify stellar populations in the Bridge and Stream and density variations in the Bridge, including the production of CMDs and two-colour diagrams, fitting isochrones to the observational data, creating stellar density maps and studying spatial variations. This work contains the first published confirmation that the Bridge contains an older population of stars from public catalogues, which is supported with observations of the older population in recent deeper surveys, and confirmed with spectroscopic follow up observations. The young population has ages within the age of the Bridge ( 200 − 500 Myr) and are likely to have formed in-situ, in regions of high density gas closest to the SMC. The number of young blue objects in the Bridge tiles is greater towards the SMC and decreases towards the LMC. Populations identified here reach ages up to 3 Gyr are likely to have been drawn into the Bridge from the Clouds at formation. The key results from this work are that an older Bridge stellar population has been identified and confirmed, indicating that stars as well as gas were drawn into the Bridge at its creation. The fact that the younger population has the highest density away from the main concentration of hydrogen show that the gas within the Bridge has been displaced by ram pressure, most likely due to the Clouds moving through the Galactic halo. Less concrete results in this work reveal a puzzling populetion of objects within the Magellanic Stream, which could be stellar in nature and with follow up work, could be the first observation of Stream objects. This work contributes to our understanding of the interaction between the LMC and SMC via the Stellar populations between them.