EDP Sciences
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Volume 483, Number 1, May III 2008
Page(s) 121 - 124
Section Extragalactic astronomy
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:200809438
Published online 25 February 2008

A&A 483, 121-124 (2008)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:200809438

The role of the Rayleigh-Taylor instability in ram pressure stripped disk galaxies

E. Roediger1, 2 and G. Hensler3

1  Jacobs University Bremen, PO Box 750 561, 28725 Bremen, Germany
    e-mail: e.roediger@jacobs-university.de
2  Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astrophysics, University of Kiel, Olshausenstr. 40, 24098 Kiel, Germany
3  Institute of Astronomy, University of Vienna, Türkenschanzstrasse 17, 1180 Vienna, Austria
    e-mail: hensler@astro.univie.ac.at

(Received 22 January 2008 / Accepted 5 February 2008)

Ram pressure stripping, i.e. the removal of a galaxy's gas disk due to its motion through the intracluster medium of a galaxy cluster, appears to be a common phenomenon. Not every galaxy, however, is completely stripped of its gas disk. If the ram pressure is insufficiently strong, only the outer parts of the gas disk are removed, and the inner gas disk is retained by the galaxy. One example of such a case is the Virgo spiral NGC 4402. Observations of NGC 4402 (Crowl et al. 2005, AJ, 130, 65) reveal structures at the leading edge of the gas disk, which resemble the characteristic finger-like structures produced by the Rayleigh-Taylor (RT) instability. We argue, however, that the RT instability is unlikely to be responsible for these structures. We demonstrate that the conditions under which a galaxy's disk gas experiences ram pressure stripping are identical to those that lead to RT instability. If the galaxy's gravity prevents ram pressure stripping of the inner disk, it also prevents the RT instability. In contrast, the stripped gas could still be subject to RT instability, and we discuss consequences for the stripped gas.

Key words: galaxies: spiral -- galaxies: evolution -- galaxies: ISM -- galaxies: intergalactic medium -- instabilities

© ESO 2008