EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 502, Number 2, August I 2009
Page(s) 473 - 498
Section Extragalactic astronomy
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/200911637
Published online 13 May 2009
A&A 502, 473-498 (2009)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/200911637

Small-scale systems of galaxies

IV. Searching for the faint galaxy population associated with X-ray detected isolated E+S pairs
R. Grützbauch1, 2, W. W. Zeilinger1, R. Rampazzo3, E. V. Held3, J. W. Sulentic4, and G. Trinchieri5

1  Institut für Astronomie, Universität Wien, Türkenschanzstraße 17, 1180 Wien, Austria
2  University of Nottingham, School of Physics and Astronomy, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK
    e-mail: ruth.grutzbauch@nottingham.ac.uk
3  INAF - Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova, Vicolo dell'Osservatorio 5, 35122, Padova, Italy
4  Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487, USA
5  INAF - Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera, via Brera 28, 20121, Milano, Italy

Received 9 January 2009 / Accepted 11 March 2009

Context. In hierarchical evolutionary scenarios, isolated, physical pairs may represent an intermediate phase, or “way station”, between collapsing groups and isolated elliptical (E) galaxies (or fossil groups).
Aims. We started a comprehensive study of a sample of galaxy pairs composed of a giant E and a spiral (S) with the aim of investigating their formation/evolutionary history from observed optical and X-ray properties.
Methods. We present VLT-VIMOS observations designed to identify faint galaxies associated with the E+S systems from candidate lists generated using photometric criteria on WFI images covering an area of ~0.2  h100-1 Mpc radius around the pairs.
Results. We found two and ten new members likely to be associated with the X-ray bright systems RR 143 and RR 242, respectively. The X-ray faint RR 210 and RR 216, which were only partially covered by the VIMOS observations, have two and three new faint members, respectively. The new members increase the number of associated galaxies to 4, 7, 6, and 16 for RR 143, RR 210, RR 216, and RR 242, respectively, down to $M_R \sim -12 + 5\, \log h_{100}$. We derive structural properties of the faint members from surface photometry. The faint galaxy population of all the systems is dominated by disk galaxies, 40% being S0s with generally low bulge to total light ratios. A small fraction of the faint companions show signatures of interaction. A remarkable shell system is detected in the early-type galaxy RR 242_24532. We also derive dynamical properties and optical luminosity functions for the 4 groups.
Conclusions. The above results are discussed in the context of the evolution of poor galaxy group associations. A comparison between the optical luminosity functions (OLFs) of our E+S systems and a sample of X-ray bright poor groups suggest that the OLF of X-ray detected poor galaxy systems is not universal. The OLF of our X-ray bright systems suggests that they are more dynamically evolved than our X-ray faint sample and some X-ray bright groups in the literature. However, we suggest that the X-ray faint E+S pairs represent a phase in the dynamical evolution of some X-ray bright poor galaxy groups. The recent or ongoing interaction in which the E member of the X-ray faint pairs is involved could have decreased the luminosity of any surrounding X-ray emitting gas.

Key words: galaxies: evolution -- galaxies: individual: RR 143 (NGC 2305/2307), RR 210 (NGC 4105/4106), RR 216 (IC 3290/NGC 4373), RR 242 (NGC 5090/5091)

© ESO 2009