Volume 386, Number 1, April IV 2002
|Page(s)||169 - 186|
|Published online||15 April 2002|
Generation of galactic disc warps due to intergalactic accretion flows onto the disc
Astronomisches Institut der Universität Basel, Venusstrasse 7, 4102-Binningen, Switzerland
2 Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, 38200 La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain
3 Departamento de Astrofísica, Universidad de La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain
4 Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Spain
Corresponding author: M. López-Corredoira, firstname.lastname@example.org
Accepted: 5 February 2002
A new method is developed to calculate the amplitude of the galactic warps generated by a torque due to external forces. This takes into account that the warp is produced as a reorientation of the different rings which constitute the disc in order to compensate the differential precession generated by the external force, yielding a uniform asymptotic precession for all rings. Application of this method to gravitational tidal forces in the Milky Way due to the Magellanic Clouds leads to a very low amplitude of the warp, as has been inferred in previous studies; so, tidal forces are unlikely to generate warps, at least in the Milky Way. If the force were due to an extragalactic magnetic field, its intensity would have to be very high, greater than 1 μG, to generate the observed warps. An alternative hypothesis is explored: the accretion of the intergalactic medium over the disk. A cup-shaped distortion is expected, due to the transmission of the linear momentum; but, this effect is small and the predominant effect turns out to be the transmission of angular momentum, i.e. a torque giving an integral-sign shape warp. The torque produced by a flow of velocity ~100 km s-1 and baryon density ~10-25 kg/m3 is enough to generate the observed warps and this mechanism offers quite a plausible explanation. First, because this order of accretion rate is inferred from other processes observed in the Galaxy, notably its chemical evolution. The inferred rate of infall of matter, ~1 /yr, to the Galactic disc that this theory predicts agrees with the quantitative predictions of this chemical evolution resolving key issues, notably the G-dwarf problem. Second, the required density of the intergalactic medium is within the range of values compatible with observation. By this mechanism, we can explain the warp phenomenon in terms of intergalactic accretion flows onto the disk of the galaxy.
Key words: galaxies: structure / galaxy: structure / galaxies: interactions / galaxies: kinematic and dynamics / galaxies: magnetic fields
© ESO, 2002
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