On the frequency, intensity, and duration of starburst episodes triggered by galaxy interactions and mergers*
Observatoire de Paris, LERMA, 61 avenue de L'Observatoire, 75014 Paris, France e-mail: email@example.com
2 Laboratoire AIM, CEA-Saclay/DSM/IRFU/SAp – CNRS – Université Paris Diderot, 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France
3 Université Pierre et Marie Curie – Paris 6, 4 place Jussieu, 75252 Paris Cedex 5, France
Accepted: 13 September 2008
We investigate the intensity enhancement and the duration of starburst episodes triggered by major galaxy interactions and mergers. We analyze two large statistical datasets of numerical simulations. These have been obtained using two independent and different numerical techniques to model baryonic and dark matter evolution that are extensively compared for the first time. One is a Tree-SPH code, the other one is a grid-based N-body sticky-particles code. We show that, at low redshift, galaxy interactions and mergers in general trigger only moderate star formation enhancements. Strong starbursts where the star formation rate is increased by a factor greater than 5 are rare and found only in about 15% of major galaxy interactions and mergers. Merger-driven starbursts are also rather short-lived, with a typical duration of activity of a few 108 yr. These conclusions are found to be robust, independent of the numerical techniques and star formation models. At higher redshifts where galaxies contain more gas, gas inflow-induced starbursts are neither stronger nor longer than their local counterparts. In turn, the formation of massive gas clumps, results of local Jeans instability that can occur spontaneously in gas-rich disks or be indirectly favored by galaxy interactions, could play a more important role in determining the duration and intensity of star formation episodes.
Key words: galaxies: evolution / galaxies: interactions / galaxies: starburst / methods: numerical
© ESO, 2008