skip to main content

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 more » 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.

« less
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 3406-3419
Oxford University Press
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this

    Post-starburst galaxies (PSBs) are defined as having experienced a recent burst of star formation, followed by a prompt truncation in further activity. Identifying the mechanism(s) causing a galaxy to experience a post-starburst phase therefore provides integral insight into the causes of rapid quenching. Galaxy mergers have long been proposed as a possible post-starburst trigger. Effectively testing this hypothesis requires a large spectroscopic galaxy survey to identify the rare PSBs as well as high-quality imaging and robust morphology metrics to identify mergers. We bring together these critical elements by selecting PSBs from the overlap of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and the Canada–France Imaging Survey and applying a suite of classification methods: non-parametric morphology metrics such as asymmetry and Gini-M20, a convolutional neural network trained to identify post-merger galaxies, and visual classification. This work is therefore the largest and most comprehensive assessment of the merger fraction of PSBs to date. We find that the merger fraction of PSBs ranges from 19 per cent to 42 per cent depending on the merger identification method and details of the PSB sample selection. These merger fractions represent an excess of 3–46× relative to non-PSB control samples. Our results demonstrate that mergers play a significant role in generatingmore »PSBs, but that other mechanisms are also required. However, applying our merger identification metrics to known post-mergers in the IllustrisTNG simulation shows that 70 per cent of recent post-mergers (≲200 Myr) would not be detected. Thus, we cannot exclude the possibility that nearly all PSBs have undergone a merger in their recent past.

    « less

    Powerful outflows are thought to play a critical role in galaxy evolution and black hole growth. We present the first large-scale systematic study of ionized outflows in paired galaxies and post-mergers compared to a robust control sample of isolated galaxies. We isolate the impact of the merger environment to determine if outflow properties depend on merger stage. Our sample contains ∼4000 paired galaxies and ∼250 post-mergers in the local universe (0.02 ≤ z ≤ 0.2) from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Data Release 7 (SDSS DR 7) matched in stellar mass, redshift, local density of galaxies, and [O iii] λ5007 luminosity to a control sample of isolated galaxies. By fitting the [O iii] λ5007 line, we find ionized outflows in ∼15 per cent of our entire sample. Outflows are much rarer in star-forming galaxies compared to active galactic nuclei (AGNs), and outflow incidence and velocity increase with [O iii] λ5007 luminosity. Outflow incidence is significantly elevated in the optical + mid-infrared selected AGN compared to purely optical AGN; over 60 per cent show outflows at the highest luminosities ($L_{\mathrm{[OIII]~\lambda 5007}}\, \gtrsim$ 1042 erg s−1), suggesting mid-infrared AGN selection favours galaxies with powerful outflows, at least for higher [O iii] λ5007 luminosities. However, we find no statistically significant difference in outflow incidence, velocity, and luminosity inmore »mergers compared to isolated galaxies, and there is no dependence on merger stage. Therefore, while interactions are predicted to drive gas inflows and subsequently trigger nuclear star formation and accretion activity, when the power source of the outflow is controlled for, the merging environment has no further impact on the large-scale ionized outflows as traced by [O iii] λ5007.

    « less

    We study the present-day rotational velocity (Vrot) and velocity dispersion (σ) profiles of the globular cluster (GC) systems in a sample of 50 lenticular (S0) galaxies from the E-MOSAICS galaxy formation simulations. We find that $82{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ of the galaxies have GCs that are rotating along the photometric major axis of the galaxy (aligned), while the remaining $18{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ of the galaxies do not (misaligned). This is generally consistent with the observations from the SLUGGS survey. For the aligned galaxies, classified as peaked and outwardly decreasing ($49{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$), flat ($24{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$), and increasing ($27{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$) based on the Vrot/σ profiles out to large radii, we do not find any clear correlation between these present-day Vrot/σ profiles of the GCs and the past merger histories of the S0 galaxies, unlike in previous simulations of galaxy stars. For just over half of the misaligned galaxies, we find that the GC misalignment is the result of a major merger within the last $10\, \mathrm{Gyr}$ so that the ex-situ GCs are misaligned by an angle between 0° (co-rotation) and 180° (counter-rotation), with respect to the in situ GCs, depending on the orbital configurationmore »of the merging galaxies. For the remaining misaligned galaxies, we suggest that the in situ metal-poor GCs, formed at early times, have undergone more frequent kinematic perturbations than the in situ metal-rich GCs. We also find that the GCs accreted early and the in situ GCs are predominantly located within 0.2 virial radii (R200) from the centre of galaxies in 3D phase-space diagrams.

    « less

    Machine learning is becoming a popular tool to quantify galaxy morphologies and identify mergers. However, this technique relies on using an appropriate set of training data to be successful. By combining hydrodynamical simulations, synthetic observations, and convolutional neural networks (CNNs), we quantitatively assess how realistic simulated galaxy images must be in order to reliably classify mergers. Specifically, we compare the performance of CNNs trained with two types of galaxy images, stellar maps and dust-inclusive radiatively transferred images, each with three levels of observational realism: (1) no observational effects (idealized images), (2) realistic sky and point spread function (semirealistic images), and (3) insertion into a real sky image (fully realistic images). We find that networks trained on either idealized or semireal images have poor performance when applied to survey-realistic images. In contrast, networks trained on fully realistic images achieve 87.1 per cent classification performance. Importantly, the level of realism in the training images is much more important than whether the images included radiative transfer, or simply used the stellar maps ($87.1{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ compared to $79.6{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ accuracy, respectively). Therefore, one can avoid the large computational and storage cost of running radiative transfer with a relatively modest compromise inmore »classification performance. Making photometry-based networks insensitive to colour incurs a very mild penalty to performance with survey-realistic data ($86.0{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ with r-only compared to $87.1{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ with gri). This result demonstrates that while colour can be exploited by colour-sensitive networks, it is not necessary to achieve high accuracy and so can be avoided if desired. We provide the public release of our statistical observational realism suite, RealSim, as a companion to this paper.

    « less

    In our hierarchical structure-formation paradigm, the observed morphological evolution of massive galaxies – from rotationally supported discs to dispersion-dominated spheroids – is largely explained via galaxy merging. However, since mergers are likely to destroy discs, and the most massive galaxies have the richest merger histories, it is surprising that any discs exist at all at the highest stellar masses. Recent theoretical work by our group has used a cosmological, hydrodynamical simulation to suggest that extremely massive (M* > 1011.4 M⊙) discs form primarily via minor mergers between spheroids and gas-rich satellites, which create new rotational stellar components and leave discs as remnants. Here, we use UV-optical and H i data of massive galaxies, from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, Galaxy Evolution Explorer, Dark Energy Camera Legacy Survey (DECaLS), and Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA surveys, to test these theoretical predictions. Observed massive discs account for ∼13 per cent of massive galaxies, in good agreement with theory (∼11 per cent). ∼64 per cent of the observed massive discs exhibit tidal features, which are likely to indicate recent minor mergers, in the deep DECaLS images (compared to ∼60 per cent in their simulated counterparts). The incidence of these features is at least four times higher than in low-mass discs, suggesting that,more »as predicted, minor mergers play a significant (and outsized) role in the formation of these systems. The empirical star formation rates agree well with theoretical predictions and, for a small galaxy sample with H i detections, the H i masses and fractions are consistent with the range predicted by the simulation. The good agreement between theory and observations indicates that extremely massive discs are indeed remnants of recent minor mergers between spheroids and gas-rich satellites.

    « less