Mighell, K. J., & Burke, C. J.   1999, AJ, 118, 366-380

We present our analysis of archival Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) observations in F555W (~V) and F814W (~I) of the central region of the Ursa Minor dwarf spheroidal galaxy. The V versus V-I color-magnitude diagram features a sparsely populated blue horizontal branch, a steep thin red giant branch, and a narrow subgiant branch. The main sequence reaches ~2 magnitudes below the main-sequence turnoff (V_TO ~ 23.27 +- 0.11 mag) of the median stellar population. We compare the fiducial sequence of Ursa Minor with the fiducial sequence of the Galactic globular cluster M92 (NGC 6341). The excellent match between Ursa Minor and M92 confirms that the median stellar population of the UMi dSph galaxy is metal poor ([Fe/H]_UMi ~ [Fe/H]_M92 ~ -2.2 dex) and ancient (age_UMi ~ age_M92 ~ 14 Gyr). The B-V reddening and the absorption in V are estimated to be E(B-V) = 0.03 +- 0.01 mag and A_V = 0.09 +- 0.03 mag. A new estimate of the distance modulus of Ursa Minor, (m-M)_0 = 19.18 +- 0.12 mag, has been derived based on fiducial-sequence fitting with M92 and the adoption of the apparent V distance modulus for M92 of (m-M)_V = 14.67 +- 0.08 mag (Pont et al. 1998, A&A, 329, 87). These HST observations indicate that Ursa Minor has had a very simple star formation history consisting mainly of a single major burst of star formation about 14 Gyr ago which lasted <=2 Gyr. If the ancient Galactic globular clusters, like M92, formed concurrently with the early formation of the Milky Way galaxy itself, then the Ursa Minor dwarf spheroidal is probably as old as the Milky Way.
  • Preprint   (2.4 Mbytes, PostScript format, gzipped)

  • astro-ph/9903065   (Los Alamos astrophysics preprint with low-resolution figures)

  •   (ASCII version of WFPC2 stellar photometry)

  • Kenneth Mighell
    Associate Scientist  
    Kitt Peak National Observatory
    National Optical Astronomy Observatories
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