A vast, thin plane of corotating dwarf galaxies orbiting the Andromeda galaxy
Dwarf satellite galaxies are thought to be the remnants of the population of primordial structures that coalesced to form giant galaxies like the Milky Way. An early analysis noted that dwarf galaxies may not be isotropically distributed around our Galaxy, as several are correlated with streams of HI emission, and possibly form co-planar groups. These suspicions are supported by recent analyses, and it has been claimed that the apparently planar distribution of satellites is not predicted within standard cosmology, and cannot simply represent a memory of past coherent accretion. However, other studies dispute this conclusion. Here we report the existence (99.998% significance) of a planar sub-group of satellites in the Andromeda galaxy, comprising approximately 50% of the population. The structure is vast: at least 400 kpc in diameter, but also extremely thin, with a perpendicular scatter <14.1 kpc (99% confidence). Radial velocity measurements reveal that the satellites in this structure have the same sense of rotation about their host. This finding shows conclusively that substantial numbers of dwarf satellite galaxies share the same dynamical orbital properties and direction of angular momentum, a new insight for our understanding of the origin of these most dark matter dominated of galaxies. Intriguingly, the plane we identify is approximately aligned with the pole of the Milky Way's disk and is co-planar with the Milky Way to Andromeda position vector. The existence of such extensive coherent kinematic structures within the halos of massive galaxies is a fact that must be explained within the framework of galaxy formation and cosmology.