Collisions and mergers are cited as culprits in the production of a large range of morphological phenomena observed in galaxies. Galactic interactions may generate faint structures, such as arcs and rings, or create an entirely different type of galaxy, depending on the types of galaxies involved and their orbital geometry. I develop detailed merger and infall models which are compared with observations in order to elucidate the dynamical processes which govern galactic formation and evolution. In a first project, the effect of including gas is studied in encounters between low-mass companions and elliptical galaxies which produce sharp-edged features called "shells." Ellipticals accrete gas, which may be important in constraining their evolution. Numerical simulations of tidal disruption of dwarf galaxies containing both gas and stars were performed. The stellar and gaseous components rapidly segregate to produce very different structures. Gaseous remnants are dense, concentrated structures that form when gas flows into the center of the galaxy. Star formation is expected in the nucleus, localized and distinctly separate from the stellar remnant. In a second project, the formation of a peculiar ring galaxy is modeled. The Cartwheel galaxy, in addition to an outer and inner ring, has several spokes which connect the two. In an attempt to reproduce the spokes, a fully self-consistent model is constructed in which a companion collides head-on with a primary consisting of a live halo and a disk containing both stars and gas. Stars and gas react to passage of the companion through the disk by producing a morphology similar to that of the Cartwheel. The region between the inner and outer rings contains several spokes with a clumpy, interrupted structure. Finally, models of both pairs and small groups of bulge-disk-halo galaxies are merged to form remnants that evince properties similar to elliptical galaxies. I analyze the spatial and kinematic characteristics of remnants of multiple and pair mergers. A fundamental plane is found for merger remnants and compared to the observed fundamental plane. Although many issues must be resolved before it is claimed that most ellipticals form through any one process, multiple mergers are likely involved.
- Pub Date:
- January 1995
- Physics: Astronomy and Astrophysics