skip to main content

Title: Formation and evolution of young massive clusters in galaxy mergers: the SMUGGLE view

Galaxy mergers are known to host abundant young massive cluster (YMC) populations, whose formation mechanism is still not well-understood. Here, we present a high-resolution galaxy merger simulation with explicit star formation and stellar feedback prescriptions to investigate how mergers affect the properties of the interstellar medium and YMCs. Compared with a controlled simulation of an isolated galaxy, the mass fraction of dense and high-pressure gas is much higher in mergers. Consequently, the mass function of both molecular clouds and YMCs becomes shallower and extends to higher masses. Moreover, cluster formation efficiency is significantly enhanced and correlates positively with the star formation rate surface density and gas pressure. We track the orbits of YMCs and investigate the time evolution of tidal fields during the course of the merger. At an early stage of the merger, the tidal field strength correlates positively with YMC mass, λtid ∝ M0.71, which systematically affects the shape of the mass function and age distribution of the YMCs. At later times, most YMCs closely follow the orbits of their host galaxies, gradually sinking into the centre of the merger remnant due to dynamical friction, and are quickly dissolved via efficient tidal disruption. Interestingly, YMCs formed during the first more » passage, mostly in tidal tails and bridges, are distributed over a wide range of galactocentric radii, greatly increasing their survivability because of the much weaker tidal field in the outskirts of the merger system. These YMCs are promising candidates for globular clusters that survive to the present day.

« less
; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1945310 2008490 2108470 1814259 1909831 2107724 2007355 1909933
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 265-279
Oxford University Press
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this

    We investigate the evolution of the tidal field experienced by massive star clusters using cosmological simulations of Milky Way-sized galaxies. Clusters in our simulations experience the strongest tidal force in the first few hundred Myr after formation, when the maximum eigenvalue of the tidal tensor reaches several times 104 Gyr−2. After about 1 Gyr the tidal field plateaus at a lower value, with the median λm ∼ 3 × 103 Gyr−2. The fraction of time clusters spend in high tidal strength (λm > 3 × 104 Gyr−2) regions also decreases with their age from ∼20 per cent immediately after formation to less than 1 per cent after 1 Gyr. At early ages both the in situ and ex situ clusters experience similar tidal fields, while at older ages the in situ clusters in general experience stronger tidal field due to their lower orbits in host galaxy. This difference is reflected in the survival of clusters: we looked into cluster disruption calculated in simulation runtime and found that ex situ star clusters of the same initial mass typically end up with higher bound fraction at the last available simulation snapshot than the in situ ones.


    The current generation of galaxy simulations can resolve individual giant molecular clouds, the progenitors of dense star clusters. But the evolutionary fate of these young massive clusters, and whether they can become the old globular clusters (GCs) observed in many galaxies, is determined by a complex interplay of internal dynamical processes and external galactic effects. We present the first star-by-star N-body models of massive (N ∼ 105–107) star clusters formed in a FIRE-2 MHD simulation of a Milky Way-mass galaxy, with the relevant initial conditions and tidal forces extracted from the cosmological simulation. We select 895 (∼30 per cent) of the YMCs with >6 × 104 M⊙ from Grudić et al. 2022 and integrate them to z = 0 using the cluster Monte Carlo code, CMC. This procedure predicts a MW-like system with 148 GCs, predominantly formed during the early, bursty mode of star formation. Our GCs are younger, less massive, and more core-collapsed than clusters in the Milky Way or M31. This results from the assembly history and age-metallicity relationship of the host galaxy: Younger clusters are preferentially born in stronger tidal fields and initially retain fewer stellar-mass black holes, causing them to lose mass faster and reach core collapse sooner than older GCs.more »Our results suggest that the masses and core/half-light radii of GCs are shaped not only by internal dynamical processes, but also by the specific evolutionary history of their host galaxies. These results emphasize that N-body studies with realistic stellar physics are crucial to understanding the evolution and present-day properties of GC systems.

    « less
  3. Abstract

    The Dragonfly galaxy (MRC 0152-209), the most infrared-luminous radio galaxy at redshiftz∼ 2, is a merger system containing a powerful radio source and large displacements of gas. We present kiloparsec-resolution data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array and the Very Large Array of carbon monoxide (6−5), dust, and synchrotron continuum, combined with Keck integral field spectroscopy. We find that the Dragonfly consists of two galaxies with rotating disks that are in the early phase of merging. The radio jet originates from the northern galaxy and brightens when it hits the disk of the southern galaxy. The Dragonfly galaxy therefore likely appears as a powerful radio galaxy because its flux is boosted into the regime of high-zradio galaxies by the jet–disk interaction. We also find a molecular outflow of (1100 ± 550)Myr−1associated with the radio host galaxy, but not with the radio hot spot or southern galaxy, which is the galaxy that hosts the bulk of the star formation. Gravitational effects of the merger drive a slower and longer-lived mass displacement at a rate of (170 ± 40)Myr−1, but this tidal debris contains at least as much molecular gas mass as the much faster outflow, namelyMH2= (3 ± 1) ×more »109(αCO/0.8)M. This suggests that both the active-galactic-nucleus-driven outflow and mass transfer due to tidal effects are important in the evolution of the Dragonfly system. The Keck data show Lyαemission spread across 100 kpc, and Civand Heiiemission across 35 kpc, confirming the presence of a metal-rich and extended circumgalactic medium previously detected in CO(1–0).

    « less

    We use the simba cosmological galaxy formation simulation to investigate the relationship between major mergers ($\lesssim$4:1), starbursts, and galaxy quenching. Mergers are identified via sudden jumps in stellar mass M* well above that expected from in situ star formation, while quenching is defined as going from specific star formation rate (sSFR) $\gt t_{\rm H}^{-1}$ to $\lt 0.2t_{\rm H}^{-1}$, where tH is the Hubble time. At z ≈ 0–3, mergers show ∼2–3× higher SFR than a mass-matched sample of star-forming galaxies, but globally represent $\lesssim 1{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ of the cosmic SF budget. At low masses, the increase in SFR in mergers is mostly attributed to an increase in the H2 content, but for $M_*\gtrsim 10^{10.5} \,\mathrm{ M}_{\odot }$ mergers also show an elevated star formation efficiency suggesting denser gas within merging galaxies. The merger rate for star-forming galaxies shows a rapid increase with redshift, ∝(1 + z)3.5, but the quenching rate evolves much more slowly, ∝(1 + z)0.9; there are insufficient mergers to explain the quenching rate at $z\lesssim 1.5$. simba first quenches galaxies at $z\gtrsim 3$, with a number density in good agreement with observations. The quenching time-scales τq are strongly bimodal, with ‘slow’ quenchings (τq ∼ 0.1tH) dominating overall,more »but ‘fast’ quenchings (τq ∼ 0.01tH) dominating in M* ∼ 1010–1010.5 M$\odot$ galaxies, likely induced by simba’s jet-mode black hole feedback. The delay time distribution between mergers and quenching events suggests no physical connection to either fast or slow quenching. Hence, simba predicts that major mergers induce starbursts, but are unrelated to quenching in either fast or slow mode.

    « less
  5. Abstract

    Observations and simulations have demonstrated that star formation in galaxies must be actively suppressed to prevent the formation of overly massive galaxies. Galactic outflows driven by stellar feedback or supermassive black hole accretion are often invoked to regulate the amount of cold molecular gas available for future star formation but may not be the only relevant quenching processes in all galaxies. We present the discovery of vast molecular tidal features extending up to 64 kpc outside of a massivez= 0.646 post-starburst galaxy that recently concluded its primary star-forming episode. The tidal tails contain (1.2 ± 0.1) × 1010Mof molecular gas, 47% ± 5% of the total cold gas reservoir of the system. Both the scale and magnitude of the molecular tidal features are unprecedented compared to all known nearby or high-redshift merging systems. We infer that the cold gas was stripped from the host galaxies during the merger, which is most likely responsible for triggering the initial burst phase and the subsequent suppression of star formation. While only a single example, this result shows that galaxy mergers can regulate the cold gas contents in distant galaxies by directly removing a large fraction of the molecular gas fuel, and plausiblymore »suppress star formation directly, a qualitatively different physical mechanism than feedback-driven outflows.

    « less