Observations of a Magellanic Corona

29 Sep 2022  ·  Dhanesh Krishnarao, Andrew J. Fox, Elena D'Onghia, Bart P. Wakker, Frances H. Cashman, J. Christopher Howk, Scott Lucchini, David M. French, Nicolas Lehner ·

The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds (LMC/SMC) are the closest major satellite galaxies of the Milky Way. They are likely on their first passage on an infalling orbit towards our Galaxy (Besla et al. 2007) and trace the ongoing dynamics of the Local Group (D'Onghia & Fox 2016). Recent measurements of a high mass for the LMC (M_halo = 10^(11.1-11.4) solar masses; Penarrubia et al. 2016, Erkal et al. 2018, 2019, Kallivayalil et al. 2018) imply the LMC should host a Magellanic Corona: a collisionally ionized, warm-hot gaseous halo at the virial temperature (10^(5.3-5.5) K) initially extending out to the virial radius (100-130 kpc). Such a Corona would have shaped the formation of the Magellanic Stream (Lucchini et al. 2020), a tidal gas structure extending over 200 degrees across the sky (D'Onghia & Fox 2016, Besla et al. 2012, Nidever et al. 2010) that is bringing in metal poor gas to the Milky Way (Fox et al. 2014). No observational evidence for such an extended Corona has been published previously, with detections of highly ionized gas only reported in directions directly toward the LMC, where winds from the LMC disk may dominate (deBoer & Savage 1980, Wakker et al. 1998). Here we show evidence for this Magellanic Corona with a potential direct detection in highly ionized oxygen (O^+5), and indirectly via triply-ionized carbon and silicon, seen in ultraviolet absorption toward background quasars. We find that the Magellanic Corona is part of a pervasive multiphase Magellanic circumgalactic medium (CGM) seen in many ionization states with a declining projected radial profile out to at least 35 kpc from the LMC and a total ionized CGM mass of log_10(M_HII;CGM/solar masses) = 9.1 +/- 0.2. The evidence for the Magellanic Corona is a crucial step forward in characterizing the Magellanic Group and its nested evolution with the Local Group.

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