Volume 535, November 2011
|Number of page(s)||15|
|Section||Galactic structure, stellar clusters and populations|
|Published online||24 October 2011|
Minor mergers and their impact on the kinematics of old and young stellar populations in disk galaxies⋆
GEPI, Observatoire de Paris, CNRS, Université Paris Diderot, 5 place Jules Janssen, 92190 Meudon, France
2 Department of Physics, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560012, India
Received: 12 January 2011
Accepted: 21 September 2011
By means of N-body simulations we investigate the impact of minor mergers on the angular momentum and dynamical properties of the merger remnant. Our simulations cover a range of initial orbital characteristics and gas-to-stellar mass fractions (from 0 to 20%), and include star formation and supernova feedback. We confirm and extend previous results by showing that the specific angular momentum of the stellar component always decreases independently of the orbital parameters or morphology of the satellite, and that the decrease in the rotation velocity of the primary galaxy is accompanied by a change in the anisotropy of the orbits. However, the decrease affects only the old stellar population, and not the new population formed from gas during the merging process. This means that the merging process induces an increasing difference in the rotational support of the old and young stellar components, with the old one lagging with respect to the new. Even if our models are not intended specifically to reproduce the Milky Way and its accretion history, we find that, under certain conditions, the modeled rotational lag found is compatible with that observed in the Milky Way disk, thus indicating that minor mergers can be a viable way to produce it. The lag can increase with the vertical distance from the disk midplane, but only if the satellite is accreted along a direct orbit, and in all cases the main contribution to the lag comes from stars originally in the primary disk rather than from stars in the satellite galaxy. We also discuss the possibility of creating counter-rotating stars in the remnant disk, their fraction as a function of the vertical distance from the galaxy midplane, and the cumulative effect of multiple mergers on their creation.
Key words: galaxies: kinematics and dynamics / galaxies: evolution / galaxies: interactions / galaxies: formation
Figures 9–18 are available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.org
© ESO, 2011
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