The First Galaxy Cluster Discovered by the VISTA Variables in the Vía Láctea Survey

Baravalle, L. D.; Nilo Castellón, J. L.; Alonso, M. V.; Díaz Tello, J.; Damke, G.; Valotto, C.; Cuevas Larenas, H.; Sánchez, B.; de los Ríos, M.; Minniti, D.; Domínguez, M.; Gurovich, S.; Barbá, R.; Soto, M.; Milla Castro, F.
The Astrophysical Journal, Volume 874, Issue 1, article id. 46, 8 pp. (2019).


We report the first confirmed detection of the galaxy cluster VVV-J144321-611754 at very low latitudes (l = 315.°836, b = ‑1.°650) located in the tile d015 of the VISTA Variables in the Vía Láctea (VVV) survey. We defined the region of 30 × 30 arcmin2centered in the brightest galaxy finding 25 galaxies. For these objects, extinction-corrected median colors of (H‑K ) = 0.34 ± 0.05 mag, (J‑H) = 0.57 ± 0.08 mag, and (J‑K ) = 0.87 ± 0.06 mag; R 1/2 = 1.59 ± 0.″16 C = 3.01 ± 0.08 and Sérsic index n = 4.63 ± 0.39 were estimated. They were visually confirmed showing characteristics of early-type galaxies in the near-IR images. An automatic clustering analysis performed in the whole tile found that the concentration of galaxies VVV-J144321-611754 is a real, compact concentration of early-type galaxies. Assuming a typical galaxy cluster with low X-ray luminosity, the photometric redshift of the brightest galaxy is z = 0.196 ± 0.025. Follow-up near-IR spectroscopy with FLAMINGOS-2 at the Gemini-South telescope revealed that the two brighter cluster galaxies have typical spectra of early-type galaxies and the estimated redshift for the brightest galaxy VVV-J144321.06-611753.9 is z = 0.234 ± 0.022 and that for VVV-J144319.02-611746.1 is z = 0.232 ± 0.019. Finally, these galaxies clearly follow the cluster red sequence in the rest-frame near-IR color–magnitude diagram with a slope similar to a galaxy cluster at a redshift of 0.2. These results are consistent with the presence of a bona fide galaxy cluster beyond the Milky Way disk.