Assessing the Fornax globular cluster timing problem in different models of dark matter

Nitsan Bar, Diego Blas, Kfir Blum, Hyungjin Kim

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9 Citations (Scopus)


We investigate what the orbits of globular clusters (GCs) in the Fornax dwarf spheroidal (dSph) galaxy can teach us about dark matter (DM). This problem was recently studied for ultralight dark matter (ULDM). We consider two additional models: (i) fermionic degenerate dark matter (DDM), where Pauli blocking should be taken into account in the dynamical friction computation; and (ii) self-interacting dark matter (SIDM). We give a simple and direct Fokker-Planck derivation of dynamical friction, new in the case of DDM and reproducing previous results in the literature for ULDM and cold DM. ULDM, DDM and SIDM were considered in the past as leading to cores in dSphs, a feature that acts to suppress dynamical friction and prolong GC orbits. For DDM we derive a version of the cosmological free streaming limit that is independent of the DM production mechanism, finding that DDM cannot produce an appreciable core in Fornax without violating Ly-α limits. If the Ly-α limit is discounted for some reason, then stellar kinematics data does allow a DDM core which could prolong GC orbits. For SIDM we find that significant prolongation of GC orbits could be obtained for values of the self-interaction cross section considered in previous works. In addition to reassessing the inspiral time using updated observational data, we give a new perspective on the so-called GC timing problem, demonstrating that for a cuspy cold DM profile dynamical friction predicts a z=0 radial distribution for the innermost GCs that is independent of initial conditions. The observed orbits of Fornax GCs are consistent with this expectation with a mild apparent fine-tuning at the level of ∼25%.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2021


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