Volume 548, December 2012
|Number of page(s)||24|
|Published online||05 December 2012|
Evolution of galactic discs: multiple patterns, radial migration, and disc outskirts
1 Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam (AIP), An der Sternwarte 16, 14482 Potsdam, Germany
2 Université de Strasbourg, CNRS, Observatoire Astronomique, 11 rue de l’Université, 67000 Strasbourg, France
3 AIfA, University of Bonn, Germany
4 Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14627, USA
5 Observatoire de Paris-Meudon, GEPI, CNRS UMR 8111, 5 Pl. Jules Janssen, 92195 Meudon, France
6 Observatoire de Paris, LERMA, CNRS, 61 avenue de L’Observatoire, 75014 Paris, France
7 Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik, Giessenbachstrasse, 85748 Garching, Germany
8 Universitäts-Sternwarte München, Scheinerstrasse 1, 81679 München, Germany
9 Anglo-Australian Observatory, PO Box 296, Epping, NSW 2121, Australia
Received: 9 March 2012
Accepted: 21 September 2012
We investigate the evolution of galactic discs in N-body tree-SPH simulations. We find that discs, initially truncated at three scale-lengths, can triple their radial extent, solely driven by secular evolution. At the same time, the initial radial metallicity gradients are flattened and even reversed in the outer discs. Both Type I (single exponential) and Type II (down-turning) observed disc surface-brightness profiles can be explained by our findings. We show that profiles with breaks beyond the bar’s outer Lindblad resonance, at present only explained as the effect of star-formation threshold, can occur even if no star formation is considered. We explain these results with the strong angular momentum outward transfer, resulting from torques and radial migration associated with multiple patterns, such as central bars and spiral waves of different multiplicity. We find that even for stars ending up on cold orbits, the changes in angular momentum exhibit complex structure as a function of radius, unlike the expected effect of transient spirals alone. We show that the bars in all of our simulations are the most effective drivers of radial migration through their corotation resonance, throughout the 3 Gyr of evolution studied. Focussing on one of our models, we find evidence for non-linear coupling among m = 1,2,3 and 4 density waves, where m is the pattern multiplicity. In this way the waves involved conspire to carry the energy and angular momentum extracted by the first mode from the inner parts of the disc much farther out than a single mode could. We suggest that the naturally occurring larger resonance widths at galactic radii beyond four scale-lengths may have profound consequences on the formation and location of breaks in disc density profiles, provided spirals are present at such large distances. We also consider the effect of gas inflow and show that when in-plane smooth gas accretion of ~5 M⊙/yr is included, the outer discs become more unstable, leading to a strong increase in the stellar velocity dispersion. This, in turn, causes the formation of a Type III (up-turning) profile in the old stellar population. We propose that observations of Type III surface brightness profiles, combined with an up-turn in the stellar velocity dispersions beyond the disc break, could be a signature of ongoing gas-accretion. The results of this study suggest that disc outskirts comprised of stars migrated from the inner disc would have relatively large radial velocity dispersions (>30 km s-1 at 6 scale-lengths for Milky Way-size systems), and significant thickness when seen edge-on.
Key words: Galaxy: disk / Galaxy: evolution / galaxies: evolution / galaxies: kinematics and dynamics / galaxies: structure / Galaxy: kinematics and dynamics
© ESO, 2012
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