Magnetic field evolution in interacting galaxies
Astronomical Observatory, Jagiellonian University,
ul. Orla 171
Accepted: 10 June 2011
Aims. Violent gravitational interactions can change the morphologies of galaxies and, by means of merging, transform them into elliptical galaxies. We aim to investigate how they affect the evolution of galactic magnetic fields.
Methods. We selected 16 systems of interacting galaxies with available VLA archive radio data at 4.86 and 1.4 GHz and compared their radio emission and estimated magnetic field strengths with their star-forming activity, far-infrared emission, and the stage of tidal interaction.
Results. The estimated mean of total magnetic field strength for our sample of interacting galaxies is 14 ± 5 μG, which is larger than for the non-interacting objects. The field regularity (of 0.27 ± 0.09) is lower than in typical spirals and indicates enhanced production of random magnetic fields in the interacting objects. We find a general evolution of magnetic fields: for weak interactions the strength of magnetic field is almost constant (10−15 μG) as interaction advances, then it increases up to 2× , peaks at the nuclear coalescence (25 μG), and decreases again, down to 5−6 μG, for the post-merger remnants. The main production of magnetic fields in colliding galaxies thus terminates somewhere close to the nuclear coalescence, after which magnetic field diffuses. The magnetic field strength for whole galaxies is weakly affected by the star formation rate (SFR), while the dependence is higher for galactic centres. We show that the morphological distortions visible in the radio total and polarized emission do not depend statistically on the global or local SFRs, while they do increase (especially in the polarization) with the advance of interaction. The constructed radio-far-infrared relations for interacting and non-interacting galaxies display a similar balance between the generation of cosmic rays, magnetic fields, and the production of the thermal energy and dust radiation.
Conclusions. The regular magnetic fields are much more sensitive to morphological distortions induced by tidal interactions than are the random fields. As a result the polarized emission could be yet another indicator of an ongoing merging process. The found evolution of magnetic field with advancing interaction would definitely imply a stronger effect of magnetic fields on the galaxy surroundings in the earlier cosmological epochs. The process of strong gravitational interactions can efficiently magnetize the merger’s surroundings, having a similar magnetizing effect on intergalactic medium as supernova explosions or galactic winds. If interacting galaxies generate some ultra-high energy cosmic rays (UHECRs), the disk or magnetized outflows can deflect them (up to 23°), and make an association of the observed UHECRs with the sites of their origin very uncertain.
Key words: galaxies: general / galaxies: magnetic fields / galaxies: interactions / radio continuum: galaxies
© ESO, 2011