Spiral arm pitch angle and galactic shear rate in N-body simulations of disc galaxies
Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London,
Holmbury St. Mary, Dorking,
Received: 18 February 2013
Accepted: 22 March 2013
Spiral galaxies are observed to exhibit a range of morphologies, in particular in the shape of spiral arms. A key diagnostic parameter is the pitch angle, which describes how tightly wound the spiral arms are. Observationally and analytically, a correlation between pitch angle and galactic shear rate has been detected. For the first time, we examine whether this effect is detected in N-body simulations by calculating and comparing pitch angles of both individual density waves and overall spiral structure in a suite of N-body simulations. We find that higher galactic shear rates produce more tightly wound spiral arms, both in individual mode patterns (density waves) and in the overall density enhancement. Although the mode pattern pitch angles by construction remain constant with time, the overall logarithmic spiral arm winds over time, which could help to explain the scatter in the relation between pitch angle versus shear seen from observations. The correlation between spiral arm pitch angle and galactic shear rate that we find in N-body simulations may also explain why late Hubble type of spiral galaxies tend to have more open arms.
Key words: galaxies: evolution / galaxies: structure / galaxies: spiral / galaxies: kinematics and dynamics
© ESO, 2013