Chemical and stellar properties of early-type dwarf galaxies around the Milky Way

Vasily Belokurov and N. Wyn Evans

Submitted on 19 September 2022


Early-type dwarfs (ETDs) are the end points of the evolution of low-mass galaxies whose gas supply has been extinguished. The cessation of star-formation lays bare the ancient stellar populations. A wealth of information is stored in the colours, magnitudes, metallicities and abundances of resolved stars of the dwarf spheroidal and ultra-faint galaxies around the Milky Way, allowing their chemistry and stellar populations to be studied in great detail. Here, we summarize our current understanding, which has advanced rapidly over the last decade thanks to the flourishing of large-scale astrometric, photometric and spectroscopic surveys. We emphasise that the primeval stellar populations in the ETDs provide a unique laboratory to study the physical conditions on small scales at epochs beyond z=2. We highlight the observed diversity of star-formation and chemical enrichment histories in nearby dwarfs. These data can not yet be fully deciphered to reveal the key processes in the dwarf evolution but the first successful attempts have been made to pin down the sites of heavy element production.


Comment: Invited Review published on August 1, 2022 in Nature Astronomy. The Version of Record is available online at

Subject: Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies