skip to main content

Title: Stellar Bars in Isolated Gas-rich Spiral Galaxies Do Not Slow Down

Elongated bar-like features are ubiquitous in galaxies, occurring at the centers of approximately two-thirds of spiral disks in the nearby Universe. Due to gravitational interactions between the bar and the other components of galaxies, it is expected that angular momentum and matter will redistribute over long (Gyr) timescales in barred galaxies. Previous work ignoring the gas phase of galaxies has conclusively demonstrated that bars should slow their rotation over time due to their interaction with dark matter halos. We have performed a simulation of a Milky Way–like galactic disk hosting a strong bar, including a state-of-the-art model of the interstellar medium and a live dark matter halo. In this simulation, the bar pattern does not slow down over time, and instead it remains at a stable, constant rate of rotation. This behavior has been observed in previous simulations using more simplified models for the interstellar gas, but the apparent lack of secular evolution has remained unexplained. We find that the presence of the gas phase arrests the process by which the dark matter halo slows down a bar, a phenomenon we term bar locking. This locking is responsible for stabilizing the bar pattern speed. We find that, in a Milky Way–like disk, a gas fraction of only about 5% is necessary for this mechanism to operate. Our result naturally explains why nearly all observed bars rotate rapidly and is especially relevant for our understanding of how the Milky Way arrived at its present state.

more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal
Medium: X Size: Article No. 173
["Article No. 173"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    The secular evolution of disk galaxies is largely driven by resonances between the orbits of “particles” (stars or dark matter) and the rotation of non-axisymmetric features (spiral arms or a bar). Such resonances may also explain kinematic and photometric features observed in the Milky Way and external galaxies. In simplified cases, these resonant interactions are well understood: for instance, the dynamics of a test particle trapped near a resonance of a steadily rotating bar is easily analyzed using the angle-action tools pioneered by Binney, Monari, and others. However, such treatments do not address the stochasticity and messiness inherent to real galaxies—effects that have, with few exceptions, been previously explored only with complexN-body simulations. In this paper, we propose a simple kinetic equation describing the distribution function of particles near an orbital resonance with a rigidly rotating bar, allowing for diffusion of the particles’ slow actions. We solve this equation for various values of the dimensionless diffusion strength Δ, and then apply our theory to the calculation of bar–halo dynamical friction. For Δ = 0, we recover the classic result of Tremaine and Weinberg that friction ultimately vanishes, owing to the phase mixing of resonant orbits. However, for Δ > 0, we find that diffusion suppresses phase mixing, leading to a finite torque. Our results suggest that stochasticity—be it physical or numerical—tends to increase bar–halo friction, and that bars in cosmological simulations might experience significant artificial slowdown, even if the numerical two-body relaxation time is much longer than a Hubble time.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Absorption-line measurements of the circumgalactic medium (CGM) display a highly nonuniform distribution of lower ionization state species accompanied by more widespread higher ionization state material. This suggests that the CGM is a dynamic, multiphase medium, such as arises in the presence of turbulence. To better understand this evolution, we perform hydrodynamic and magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations of the CGM surrounding Milky Way–like galaxies. In both cases, the CGM is initially in hydrostatic balance in a 1012Mdark matter gravitational potential, and the simulations include rotation in the inner halo and turbulence that decreases radially. They also track ionizations, recombinations, and species-by-species radiative cooling in the presence of the redshift-zero UV background, employing the MAIHEM nonequilibrium chemistry package. We find that after 9 Gyr of evolution, the presence of a magnetic field leads to an overall hotter CGM, with cool gas in the center where magnetic pressure dominates. While the non-MHD run produces more cold clouds overall, we find similar Siiv/Oviand Nv/Oviratios between the MHD and non-MHD runs, which are both very different from their equilibrium values. The non-MHD halo develops cool, low angular momentum filaments above the central disk, in comparison to the MHD run that has more efficient angular momentum transport, especially for the cold gas, which forms a more ordered and extended disk late into its evolution.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    We develop a linear perturbative formalism to compute the response of an inhomogeneous stellar disk embedded in a nonresponsive dark matter (DM) halo to various perturbations like bars, spiral arms, and encounters with satellite galaxies. Without self-gravity to reinforce it, the response of a Fourier mode phase mixes away due to an intrinsic spread in the vertical (Ωz), radial (Ωr), and azimuthal (Ωϕ) frequencies, triggering local phase-space spirals. The detailed galactic potential dictates the shape of phase spirals: phase mixing occurs more slowly and thus phase spirals are more loosely wound in the outer disk and in the presence of an ambient DM halo. Collisional diffusion due to scattering of stars by structures like giant molecular clouds causes superexponential damping of the phase spiral amplitude. Thezvzphase spiral is one-armed (two-armed) for vertically antisymmetric (symmetric) bending (breathing) modes. Only transient perturbations with timescales (τP) comparable to the vertical oscillation period (τz∼ 1/Ωz) can trigger vertical phase spirals. Each (n,l,m) mode of the response to impulsive (τP<τ= 1/(nΩz+lΩr+mΩϕ)) perturbations is power-law (∼τP/τ) suppressed, but that to adiabatic (τP>τ) perturbations is exponentially weak (expτP/τα) except for resonant (τ→ ∞ ) modes. Slower (τP>τz) perturbations, e.g., distant encounters with satellite galaxies, induce stronger bending modes. Sagittarius (Sgr) dominates the solar neighborhood response of the Milky Way (MW) disk to satellite encounters. Thus, if the Gaia phase spiral was triggered by a MW satellite, Sgr is the leading contender. However, the survival of the phase spiral against collisional damping necessitates an impact ∼0.6–0.7 Gyr ago.

    more » « less
  4. null (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Advances in instrumentation have recently extended detailed measurements of gas kinematics to large samples of high-redshift galaxies. Relative to most nearby, thin disc galaxies, in which gas rotation accurately traces the gravitational potential, the interstellar medium (ISM) of $z$ ≳ 1 galaxies is typically more dynamic and exhibits elevated turbulence. If not properly modelled, these effects can strongly bias dynamical mass measurements. We use high-resolution FIRE-2 cosmological zoom-in simulations to analyse the physical effects that must be considered to correctly infer dynamical masses from gas kinematics. Our analysis covers a range of galaxy properties from low-redshift Milky-Way-mass galaxies to massive high-redshift galaxies (M⋆ > 1011 M⊙ at $z$ = 1). Selecting only snapshots where a disc is present, we calculate the rotational profile $\bar{v}_\phi (r)$ of the cool ($10^{3.5}\,\lt {\it T}\lt 10^{4.5}~\rm {K}$) gas and compare it to the circular velocity $v_{\rm c}=\sqrt{GM_{\rm enc}/r}$. In the simulated galaxies, the gas rotation traces the circular velocity at intermediate radii, but the two quantities diverge significantly in the centre and in the outer disc. Our simulations appear to over-predict observed rotational velocities in the centres of massive galaxies (likely from a lack of black hole feedback), so we focus on larger radii. Gradients in the turbulent pressure at these radii can provide additional radial support and bias dynamical mass measurements low by up to 40 per cent. In both the interior and exterior, the gas’ motion can be significantly non-circular due to e.g. bars, satellites, and inflows/outflows. We discuss the accuracy of commonly used analytic models for pressure gradients (or ‘asymmetric drift’) in the ISM of high-redshift galaxies. 
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Galactic disks are highly responsive systems that often undergo external perturbations and subsequent collisionless equilibration, predominantly via phase mixing. We use linear perturbation theory to study the response of infinite isothermal slab analogs of disks to perturbations with diverse spatiotemporal characteristics. Without self-gravity of the response, the dominant Fourier modes that get excited in a disk are the bending and breathing modes, which, due to vertical phase mixing, trigger local phase-space spirals that are one- and two-armed, respectively. We demonstrate how the lateral streaming motion of slab stars causes phase spirals to damp out over time. The ratio of the perturbation timescale (τP) to the local, vertical oscillation time (τz) ultimately decides which of the two modes is excited. Faster, more impulsive (τP<τz) and slower, more adiabatic (τP>τz) perturbations excite stronger breathing and bending modes, respectively, although the response to very slow perturbations is exponentially suppressed. For encounters with satellite galaxies, this translates to more distant and more perpendicular encounters triggering stronger bending modes. We compute the direct response of the Milky Way disk to several of its satellite galaxies and find that recent encounters with all of them excite bending modes in the solar neighborhood. The encounter with Sagittarius triggers a response that is at least 1–2 orders of magnitude larger than that due to any other satellite, including the Large Magellanic Cloud. We briefly discuss how ignoring the presence of a dark matter halo and the self-gravity of the response might impact our conclusions.

    more » « less