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Shocks and angular momentum flips: a different path to feeding the nuclear regions of merging galaxies


Capelo, Pedro R; Dotti, Massimo (2017). Shocks and angular momentum flips: a different path to feeding the nuclear regions of merging galaxies. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 465(3):2643-2653.

Abstract

We study the dynamics of galaxy mergers, with emphasis on the gas feeding of nuclear regions, using a suite of hydrodynamical simulations of galaxy encounters. The high spatial and temporal resolution of the simulations allows us to not only recover the standard picture of tidal-torque-induced inflows, but also to detail another, important feeding path produced by ram pressure. The induced shocks effectively decouple the dynamics of the gas from that of the stars, greatly enhancing the loss of gas angular momentum and leading to increased central inflows. The ram-pressure shocks also cause, in many cases, the entire galactic gas disc of the smaller galaxy to abruptly change its direction of rotation, causing a complete ‘flip’ and, several 108 yr later, a subsequent ‘counter-flip’. This phenomenon results in the existence of long-lived decoupled gas–stellar and stellar–stellar discs, which could hint at a new explanation for the origin of some of the observed kinematically decoupled cores/counter-rotating discs. Lastly, we speculate, in the case of non-coplanar mergers, on the possible existence of a new class of remnant systems similar to some of the observed X-shaped radio galaxies.

Abstract

We study the dynamics of galaxy mergers, with emphasis on the gas feeding of nuclear regions, using a suite of hydrodynamical simulations of galaxy encounters. The high spatial and temporal resolution of the simulations allows us to not only recover the standard picture of tidal-torque-induced inflows, but also to detail another, important feeding path produced by ram pressure. The induced shocks effectively decouple the dynamics of the gas from that of the stars, greatly enhancing the loss of gas angular momentum and leading to increased central inflows. The ram-pressure shocks also cause, in many cases, the entire galactic gas disc of the smaller galaxy to abruptly change its direction of rotation, causing a complete ‘flip’ and, several 108 yr later, a subsequent ‘counter-flip’. This phenomenon results in the existence of long-lived decoupled gas–stellar and stellar–stellar discs, which could hint at a new explanation for the origin of some of the observed kinematically decoupled cores/counter-rotating discs. Lastly, we speculate, in the case of non-coplanar mergers, on the possible existence of a new class of remnant systems similar to some of the observed X-shaped radio galaxies.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute for Computational Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:530 Physics
Language:English
Date:3 May 2017
Deposited On:09 Jan 2018 20:47
Last Modified:19 Feb 2018 09:32
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:0035-8711
Additional Information:This article has been accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society © 2017 The Authors Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/stw2872

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