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Discovery of the local counterpart of disc galaxies at z > 4: The oldest thin disc of Milky Way using Gaia-RVS

Samir NepalCristina ChiappiniAnna B.A. Queiroz ...+4 Arman Khalatyan
Feb 2024
JWST has recently detected numerous disc galaxies at high-redshifts and there have been observations of cold disc galaxies at z > 4 with ALMA. In the Milky Way, recent studies find metal-poor stars in cold disc orbits, suggesting an ancient disc. We investigated a sample of 565,606 stars from the hybrid-CNN analysis of the Gaia-DR3 RVS stars. The sample contains 8,500 stars with [Fe/H]<-1. For a subset of ~200,000 main sequence turnoff and subgiant stars we computed distances and ages using the StarHorse code with a mean precision of 1% and 12%, respectively. First, we confirm the existence of metal-poor stars in thin disc orbits - over 50% are older than 13 Gyr. Second, we report the discovery of the oldest thin disc of the Milky Way extending across a wide range of metallicities from metal-poor to super-solar. The metal-poor stars in disc orbits manifest as a readily visible tail of the metallicity distribution. The high-[{\alpha}/Fe] thick disc exhibits a vertical velocity dispersion of 35 km/s, while the thin disc shows 10 to 15 km/s lower at similar ages. Our old thin disc $\sigma_{V_z}$ appears similar to those estimated for the high-z disc galaxies. Third, we extend the [Y/Mg] chemical clock to the oldest ages and estimate a slope of -0.038 dex/Gyr. Finally, we show that the Splash includes both old (> 9 Gyr) high- and low-[{\alpha}/Fe] populations and extends to super-solar [Fe/H]. We find about 6 to 10% of the old thin disc was heated to thick disc orbits with the youngest splashed stars being 9 to 10 Gyrs. We conclude the Milky Way thin disc forms <1 billion years from Big Bang, building up inside-out, preceding earlier estimates by about 4-5 billion years. Considering a massive merger event such as the GSE, a Splash is expected - we find a portion of the old thin disc is heated to thick disc velocities and the Splash extends to super-solar [Fe/H] regimes.
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