Astronomy and Astrophysics, volume 442, L49-52 (2005/11-2)
Low-column density gas clumps in the halo of the Milky Way.
RICHTER P., WESTMEIER T. and BRUENS C.
Abstract (from CDS):
We report on the detection of low-column density neutral hydrogen clumps in the halo of the Milky Way. Using high-resolution (FWHM∼7km/s) optical spectra obtained with the VLT/UVES spectrograph we detect narrow interstellar absorption by CaII and NaI at high radial velocities near vLSR≃-150km/s toward the quasar PKS1448-232 (l=335.4, b=+31.7). Follow-up HI 21cm observations with the VLA unveil the presence of a complex of small neutral hydrogen clumps with Hi column densities <8x1018cm–2. The measured HI line widths imply that the gas is relatively cold with temperatures T≤900K. Although the line of sight towards PKS1448-232 does not pass immediately through a known large high-velocity cloud (HVC), the sky position and the measured radial velocities suggest that these clumps are associated with HVC cloud complex L. An inspection of other UVES quasar spectra shows that weak, narrow Caii absorption at high velocities is a common phenomenon, even in directions where high-velocity HI 21cm emission is not detected. This suggests that the Milky Way halo contains a large number of high-velocity neutral gas clumps with low HI column densities. If such clumps are typical for halos of spiral galaxies, they should contribute significantly to the population of strong MgII absorbers and Lyman-Limit Systems (LLS) seen in the circumgalactic environment of other galaxies.