In the last decade, several ultra faint objects (UFOs, MV ?3.5) have been discovered in the outer halo of the Milky Way. For some of these objects, it is not clear whether they are star clusters or (ultra faint) dwarf galaxies. In this work, we quantify the contribution of star clusters to the population of UFOs. We extrapolated the mass and Galactocentric radius distribution of the globular clusters using a population model, finding that the Milky Way contains about 3.3+7.3 ?1.6 star clusters with MV ?3.5 and Galactocentric radius e20 kpc. To understand whether dissolving clusters can appear as UFOs, we run a suite of direct N-body models, varying the orbit, the Galactic potential, the binary fraction and the black hole (BH) natal kick velocities. In the analyses, we consider observational biases such as luminosity limit, field stars and line-of-sight projection. We find that star clusters contribute to both the compact and the extended population of UFOs: clusters without BHs appear compact with radii <5 pc, while clusters that retain their BHs after formation have radii 20 pc. The properties of the extended clusters are remarkably similar to those of dwarf galaxies: high-inferred mass-to-light ratios due to binaries, binary properties mildly affected by dynamical evolution, no observable mass segregation and flattened stellar mass function. We conclude that the slope of the stellar mass function as a function of Galactocentric radius and the presence/absence of cold streams can discriminate between dark matter-free and dark matter-dominated UFOs.
We present a new technique to probe the central dark matter (DM) density profile of galaxies that harnesses both the survival and observed properties of star clusters. As a first application, we apply our method to the `ultra-faint' dwarf Eridanus II (Eri II) that has a lone star cluster ~45 pc from its centre. Using a grid of collisional N-body simulations, incorporating the effects of stellar evolution, external tides and dynamical friction, we show that a DM core for Eri II naturally reproduces the size and the projected position of its star cluster. By contrast, a dense cusped galaxy requires the cluster to lie implausibly far from the centre of Eri II (>1 kpc), with a high inclination orbit that must be observed at a particular orbital phase. Our results imply that either a cold DM cusp was `heated up' at the centre of Eri II by bursty star formation, or we are seeing an evidence for physics beyond cold DM.