Where are the high-velocity clouds in local group analogs?

D. J. Pisano, David G. Barnes, Brad K. Gibson, Lister Staveley-Smith, Ken C. Freeman, Virginia A. Kilborn

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45 Citations (Scopus)


High-velocity clouds (HVCs) are clouds of H I seen around the Milky Way with velocities inconsistent with Galactic rotation; they have unknown distances and masses and controversial origins. One possibility is that HVCs are associated with the small dark matter halos seen in models of galaxy formation and distributed at distances of 150 kpc to 1 Mpc. We report on our attempts to detect the analogs to such putative extragalactic clouds in three groups of galaxies similar to our own Local Group using the Australia Telescope National Facility Parkes Telescope and Compact Array. Eleven dwarf galaxies were found, but no H I clouds lacking stars were detected. Using the population of compact HVCs around the Milky Way as a template, we find that our nondetection of analogs implies that they must be clustered within 160 kpc of the Milky Way (and other galaxies) with an average H I mass ≲4 × 105 M at the 95% confidence level. This is in accordance with recent limits derived by other authors. If our groups are true analogs to the Local Group, then this makes the original Blitz et al. and Braun & Burton picture of HVCs residing out to 1 Mpc from the Milky Way extremely unlikely. The total H I mass in HVCs, ≲108 M, implies that there is not a large reservoir of neutral hydrogen waiting to be accreted onto the Milky Way. Any substantial reservoir of baryonic matter must be mostly ionized or condensed enough as to be undetectable.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number1 II
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Galaxies: formation
  • Intergalactic medium
  • Local Group

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