Near-Infrared Variability Study of the Central 2.3 arcmin x 2.3 arcmin of the Galactic Centre II. Identification of RR Lyrae Stars in the Milky Way Nuclear Star Cluster

Dong, Hui; Schodel, Rainer; Williams, Benjamin F.; Nogueras-Lara, Francisco; Gallego-Cano, Eulalia; Gallego-Calvente, Teresa; Wang, Q. Daniel; Rich, R. Michael; Morris, Mark R.; Do, Tuan; Ghez, Andrea
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 471, issue 3, pp. 3617-3631 (2017).


Because of strong and spatially highly variable interstellar extinction and extreme source crowding, the faint (K>15) stellar population in the Milky Way's nuclear cluster is still poorly studied. RR Lyrae stars provide us with a tool to estimate the mass of the oldest, relative dim stellar population. Recently, we analyzed HST/WFC3/IR observations of the central 2.3'x2.3' of the Milky Way and found 21 variable stars with periods between 0.2 and 1d. Here, we present a further comprehensive analysis of these stars. The period-luminosity relationship of RR Lyrae is used to derive their extinctions and distances. Using multiple approaches, we classify our sample as four RRc, four RRab and three candidates, ten binaries. Especially, the four RRabs show sawtooth light curves and fall exactly onto the Oosterhoff I division in the Bailey diagram. Compared to the RRabs reported by Minniti et al, 2016, our new RRabs have higher extinction (A_K>1.8) and should be closer to the Galactic Centre. The extinction and distance of one RRab match those for the nuclear star cluster given in previous works. We perform simulations and find that after correcting for incompleteness, there could be no more than 40 RRabs within the nuclear star cluster and in our field-of-view. Through comparing with the known globular clusters of the Milky Way, we estimate that if there exists an old, metal-poor (-1.5<[Fe/H]<-1) stellar population in the Milky Way nuclear star cluster on a scale of 5x5pc, then it contributes at most 4.7x10^5 solar mass, i.e., ~18% of the stellar mass.