Dwarf Galaxy Mass Estimators vs. Cosmological Simulations

Gonzalez-Samaniego et al., available on arXiv.

Abstract: We use a suite of high-resolution cosmological dwarf galaxy simulations to test the accuracy of commonly-used mass estimators from Walker et al.(2009) and Wolf et al. (2010), both of which depend on the observed line-of-sight velocity dispersion and the 2D half-light radius of the galaxy, Re. The simulations are part of the the Feedback in Realistic Environments (FIRE) project and include twelve systems with stellar masses spanning 10^5-10^7 Msun that have structural and kinematic properties similar to those of observed dispersion-supported dwarfs. Both estimators are found to be quite accurate: M_Wolf/M_true = 0.98^+0.19_-0.12 and M_Walker/M_true = 1.07^+0.21_-0.15, with errors reflecting the 68% range over all simulations. The excellent performance of these estimators is remarkable given that they each assume spherical symmetry, a supposition that is broken in our simulated galaxies. Though our dwarfs have negligible rotation support, their 3D stellar distributions are flattened, with short-to-long axis ratios c/a ~0.4-0.7. The accuracy of the estimators shows no trend with asphericity. Our simulated galaxies have sphericalized stellar profiles in 3D that follow a nearly universal form, one that transitions from a core at small radius to a steep fall-off ~r^-4.2 at large r, they are well fit by Sérsic profiles in projection. We find that the most important empirical quantity affecting mass estimator accuracy is Re. Determining Re by an analytic fit to the surface density profile produces a better estimated mass than if the half-light radius is determined via direct summation.