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Title: The observability of galaxy merger signatures in nearby gas-rich spirals

Galaxy mergers are crucial to understanding galaxy evolution, therefore we must determine their observational signatures to select them from large IFU galaxy samples such as MUSE and SAMI. We employ 24 high-resolution idealized hydrodynamical galaxy merger simulations based on the ‘Feedback In Realistic Environment’ (FIRE-2) model to determine the observability of mergers to various configurations and stages using synthetic images and velocity maps. Our mergers cover a range of orbital configurations at fixed 1:2.5 stellar mass ratio for two gas rich spirals at low redshift. Morphological and kinematic asymmetries are computed for synthetic images and velocity maps spanning each interaction. We divide the interaction sequence into three: (1) the pair phase; (2) the merging phase; and (3) the post-coalescence phase. We correctly identify mergers between first pericentre passage and 500 Myr after coalescence using kinematic asymmetry with 66 per cent completeness, depending upon merger phase and the field of view of the observation. We detect fewer mergers in the pair phase (40 per cent) and many more in the merging and post-coalescence phases (97 per cent). We find that merger detectability decreases with field of view, except in retrograde mergers, where centrally concentrated asymmetric kinematic features enhances their detectability. Using a cut-off derived from a combination of photometric and kinematic asymmetry, we increase these detections to 89 per cent overall, 79 per cent in pairs, and close to 100 per cent in the merging and post-coalescent phases. By using this combined asymmetry cut-off we mitigate some of the effects caused by smaller fields of view subtended by massively multiplexed integral field spectroscopy programmes.

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Publisher / Repository:
Oxford University Press
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 3406-3419
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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