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Tidal tales of minor mergers: star formation in the tidal tails of minor mergers

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This work examines star formation in the debris associated with collisions of dwarf and spiral galaxies. While the spectacular displays of major mergers are famous (e.g., NGC 4038/9, ``The Antennae''), equal mass galaxy mergers are relatively rare compared to minor

This work examines star formation in the debris associated with collisions of dwarf and spiral galaxies. While the spectacular displays of major mergers are famous (e.g., NGC 4038/9, ``The Antennae''), equal mass galaxy mergers are relatively rare compared to minor mergers (mass ratio <0.3) Minor mergers are less energetic than major mergers, but more common in the observable universe and, thus, likely played a pivotal role in the formation of most large galaxies. Centers of mergers host vigorous star formation from high gas density and turbulence and are surveyed over cosmological distances. However, the tidal debris resulting from these mergers have not been well studied. Such regions have large reservoirs of gaseous material that can be used as fuel for subsequent star formation but also have lower gas density. Tracers of star formation at the local and global scale have been examined for three tidal tails in two minor merger systems. These tracers include young star cluster populations, H-alpha, and [CII] emission. The rate of apparent star formation derived from these tracers is compared to the gas available to estimate the star formation efficiency (SFE). The Western tail of NGC 2782 formed isolated star clusters while massive star cluster complexes are found in the UGC 10214 (``The Tadpole'') and Eastern tail of NGC 2782. Due to the lack of both observable CO and [CII] emission, the observed star formation in the Western tail of NGC 2782 may have a low carbon abundance and represent only the first round of local star formation. While the Western tail has a normal SFE, the Eastern tail in the same galaxy has an low observed SFE. In contrast, the Tadpole tidal tail has a high observed star formation rate and a corresponding high SFE. The low SFE observed in the Eastern tail of NGC 2782 may be due to its origin as a splash region where localized gas heating is important. However, the other tails may be tidally formed regions where gravitational compression likely dominates and enhances the local star formation.

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2013