Multiple minor mergers: formation of elliptical galaxies and constraints for the growth of spiral disks
Laboratoire AIM, CEA-Saclay DSM/DAPNIA/SAp – CNRS – Université Paris Diderot, 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France e-mail: email@example.com
2 Department of Physics, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560012, India
3 Observatoire de Paris, LERMA, 61 Av. de l'Observatoire, 75014 Paris, France
Accepted: 21 September 2007
Multiple, sequential mergers are unavoidable in the hierarchical build-up picture of galaxies, in particular for the minor mergers that are frequent and highly likely to have occured several times for most present-day galaxies. However, the effect of repeated minor mergers on galactic structure and evolution has not been studied systematically so far. We present a numerical study of multiple, subsequent, minor galaxy mergers, with various mass ratios ranging from 4:1 to 50:1. The N-body simulations include gas dynamics and star formation. We study the morphological and kinematical properties of the remnants, and show that several so-called “minor” mergers can lead to the formation of elliptical-like galaxies that have global morphological and kinematical properties similar to that observed in real elliptical galaxies. The properties of these systems are compared with those of elliptical galaxies produced by the standard scenario of one single major merger. We thus show that repeated minor mergers can theoretically form elliptical galaxies without major mergers, and can be more frequent than major mergers, in particular at moderate redshift. This process must then have formed some elliptical galaxies seen today, and could in particular explain the high boxiness of massive ellipticals, and some fundamental relations observed in ellipticals. In addition, because repeated minor mergers, even at high mass ratios, destroy disks into spheroids, these results indicate that spiral galaxies cannot have grown only by a succession of minor mergers.
Key words: Galaxy: evolution / Galaxy: structure / Galaxy: kinematics and dynamics / galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD / Galaxy: formation / galaxies: interactions
© ESO, 2007