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The Tucana dwarf spheroidal: a distant backsplash galaxy of M31?

Santos-Santos, Isabel ME; Navarro, Julio F; McConnachie, Alan

The Tucana dwarf spheroidal: a distant backsplash galaxy of M31? Thumbnail


Julio F Navarro

Alan McConnachie


We use the APOSTLE Local Group (LG) cosmological hydrosimulations to examine the properties of ‘backsplash’ galaxies, i.e. dwarfs that were within the virial boundaries of the Milky Way (MW) or M31 in the past, but are today outside their virial radius (r200). More than half of all dwarfs between 1 and 2r200 of each primary are backsplash. More distant backsplash systems, i.e. those reaching distances well beyond 2r200 ⁠, are typically close to apocentre of nearly radial orbits, and, therefore, essentially at rest relative to their primary. We use this result to investigate which LG dwarfs beyond ∼500 kpc of either primary could be a distant backsplash satellite of MW or M31. Tucana dSph, one of the few known quiescent LG field dwarfs, at dM31 ≈ 1350 kpc and dMW ≈ 880 kpc, is a promising candidate. Tucana’s radial velocity is consistent with being at rest relative to M31. Further, Tucana is located close to M33’s orbital plane around M31, and simple orbit integrations indicate that Tucana may have been ejected during an early pericentric passage of M33 ∼11 Gyr ago, a timing that approximately coincides with Tucana’s last episode of star formation. We suggest that Tucana may have been an early-infalling satellite of M31 or M33, providing a compelling explanation for its puzzling lack of gas and ongoing star formation despite its isolated nature. In this scenario, M33 should have completed some orbits around M31, a result that may help to explain the relative dearth of M33 satellite candidates identified so far.


Santos-Santos, I. M., Navarro, J. F., & McConnachie, A. (2023). The Tucana dwarf spheroidal: a distant backsplash galaxy of M31?. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 520(1), 55-62.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 5, 2023
Online Publication Date Jan 29, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Mar 2, 2023
Publicly Available Date Mar 2, 2023
Journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Print ISSN 0035-8711
Electronic ISSN 1365-2966
Publisher Royal Astronomical Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 520
Issue 1
Pages 55-62
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Copyright Statement
© 2023 The Author(s).
Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Royal Astronomical Society. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative
Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
provided the original work is properly cited.

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