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Creators/Authors contains: "Ellison, Sara L."

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  1. ABSTRACT

    Using adaptive optics with the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer on the Very Large Telescope, the Middle Ages Galaxy Properties with Integral Field Spectroscopy survey allows us to study the spatially resolved Universe at a crucial time of ∼4 Gyr ago (z ∼ 0.3) when simulations predict the greatest diversity in evolutionary pathways for galaxies. We investigate the radial trends in the star formation (SF) activity and luminosity-weighted stellar ages as a function of offset from the star-forming main sequence (SFMS) for a total of 294 galaxies. Using both Hα emission and the 4000 Å break (i.e. D4000) as star formation rate (SFR) tracers, we find overall flat radial profiles for galaxies lying on and above the SFMS, suggestive of physical processes that enhance/regulate SF throughout the entire galaxy disc. However, for galaxies lying below the SFMS, we find positive gradients in SF suggestive of inside–out quenching. Placing our results in context with results from other redshift regimes suggests an evolution in radial trends at z ∼ 0.3 for SF galaxies above the SFMS, from uniformly enhanced SF at z ∼ 1 and ∼ 0.3 to centrally enhanced SF at z ∼ 0 (when averaged over a wide range of mass). We also capture higher local SFRs for galaxies below the SFMS compared to that of z ∼ 0, which can be explained by a larger population of quenched satellites in the local Universe and/or different treatments of limitations set by the D4000–sSFR relation.

     
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  2. ABSTRACT

    The kinematic disturbances associated with major galaxy mergers are known to produce gas inflows, which in turn may trigger accretion onto the supermassive black holes (SMBH) of the participant galaxies. While this effect has been studied in galaxy pairs, the frequency of active galactic nuclei (AGNs) in fully coalesced post-merger systems is poorly constrained due to the limited size or impurity of extant post-merger samples. Previously, we combined convolutional neural network (CNN) predictions with visual classifications to identify a highly pure sample of 699 post-mergers in deep r-band imaging. In the work presented here, we quantify the frequency of AGNs in this sample using three metrics: optical emission lines, mid-infrared (mid-IR) colour, and radio detection of low-excitation radio galaxies (LERGs). We also compare the frequency of AGNs in post-mergers to that in a sample of spectroscopically identified galaxy pairs. We find that AGNs identified by narrow-line optical emission and mid-IR colour have an increased incidence rate in post-mergers, with excesses of ~4 over mass- and redshift-matched controls. The optical and mid-IR AGN excesses in post-mergers exceed the values found for galaxy pairs, indicating that AGN activity in mergers peaks after coalescence. Conversely, we recover no significant excess of LERGs in post-mergers or pairs. Finally, we find that the [O iii] luminosity (a proxy for SMBH accretion rate) in post-mergers that host an optical AGN is ~0.3 dex higher on average than in non-interacting galaxies with an optical AGN, suggesting that mergers generate higher accretion rates than secular triggering mechanisms.

     
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  3. ABSTRACT

    We study the scaling relations between gas-phase metallicity, stellar mass surface density (Σ*), star formation rate surface density (ΣSFR), and molecular gas surface density ($\Sigma _{{\rm H}_2}$) in local star-forming galaxies on scales of a kpc. We employ optical integral field spectroscopy from the Mapping Nearby Galaxies at Apache Point Observatory (MaNGA) survey, and ALMA data for a subset of MaNGA galaxies. We use partial correlation coefficients and Random Forest regression to determine the relative importance of local and global galactic properties in setting the gas-phase metallicity. We find that the local metallicity depends primarily on Σ* (the resolved mass–metallicity relation, rMZR), and has a secondary anticorrelation with ΣSFR (i.e. a spatially resolved version of the ‘Fundamental Metallicity Relation’, rFMR). We find that $\Sigma _{{\rm H}_2}$ is less important than ΣSFR in determining the local metallicity. This result indicates that gas accretion, resulting in local metallicity dilution and local boosting of star formation, is unlikely to be the primary origin of the rFMR. The local metallicity depends also on the global properties of galaxies. We find a strong dependence on the total stellar mass (M*) and a weaker (inverse) dependence on the total SFR. The global metallicity scaling relations, therefore, do not simply stem out of their resolved counterparts; global properties and processes, such as the global gravitational potential well, galaxy-scale winds and global redistribution/mixing of metals, likely contribute to the local metallicity, in addition to local production and retention.

     
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  4. ABSTRACT

    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 generating 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.

     
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  5. ABSTRACT

    The importance of the post-merger epoch in galaxy evolution has been well documented, but post-mergers are notoriously difficult to identify. While the features induced by mergers can sometimes be distinctive, they are frequently missed by visual inspection. In addition, visual classification efforts are highly inefficient because of the inherent rarity of post-mergers (~1 per cent in the low-redshift Universe), and non-parametric statistical merger selection methods do not account for the diversity of post-mergers or the environments in which they appear. To address these issues, we deploy a convolutional neural network (CNN) that has been trained and evaluated on realistic mock observations of simulated galaxies from the IllustrisTNG simulations, to galaxy images from the Canada France Imaging Survey, which is part of the Ultraviolet Near Infrared Optical Northern Survey. We present the characteristics of the galaxies with the highest CNN-predicted post-merger certainties, as well as a visually confirmed subset of 699 post-mergers. We find that post-mergers with high CNN merger probabilities [p(x) > 0.8] have an average star formation rate that is 0.1 dex higher than a mass- and redshift-matched control sample. The SFR enhancement is even greater in the visually confirmed post-merger sample, a factor of 2 higher than the control sample.

     
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  6. ABSTRACT

    Galaxy mergers are known to trigger both extended and central star formation. However, what remains to be understood is whether this triggered star formation is facilitated by enhanced star formation efficiencies (SFEs), or an abundance of molecular gas fuel. This work presents spatially resolved measurements of CO emission collected with the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA) for 20 merging galaxies (either pairs or post-mergers) selected from the Mapping Nearby Galaxies at Apache Point Observatory (MaNGA) survey. Eleven additional merging galaxies are selected from the ALMA MaNGA QUEnching and STar formation (ALMaQUEST) survey, resulting in a set of 31 mergers at various stages of interaction and covering a broad range of star formation rates (SFRs). We investigate galaxy-to-galaxy variations in the resolved Kennicutt–Schmidt relation, (rKS: $\Sigma _{\textrm {H}_2}$ versus ΣSFR), the resolved molecular gas main sequence (rMGMS: Σ⋆ versus $\Sigma _{\textrm {H}_2}$), and the resolved star-forming main sequence (rSFMS: Σ⋆ versus ΣSFR). We quantify offsets from these resolved relations to determine if SFR, molecular gas fraction, or/and SFE is/are enhanced in different regions of an individual galaxy. By comparing offsets in all three parameters, we can discern whether gas fraction or SFE powers an enhanced ΣSFR. We find that merger-induced star formation can be driven by a variety of mechanisms, both within a galaxy and between different mergers, regardless of interaction stage.

     
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  7. ABSTRACT

    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 in 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.

     
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  8. ABSTRACT

    We investigate the nature of the scaling relations between the surface density of star formation rate (ΣSFR), stellar mass (Σ*), and molecular gas mass ($\Sigma _{\rm H_2}$), aiming at distinguishing between the relations that are primary, i.e. more fundamental, and those which are instead an indirect by-product of the other relations. We use the ALMA-MaNGA QUEnching and STar formation survey and analyse the data by using both partial correlations and random forest regression techniques. We unambiguously find that the strongest intrinsic correlation is between ΣSFR and $\Sigma _{\rm H_2}$ (i.e. the resolved Schmidt–Kennicutt relation), followed by the correlation between $\Sigma _{\rm H_2}$ and Σ* (resolved molecular gas main sequence, rMGMS). Once these two correlations are taken into account, we find that there is no evidence for any intrinsic correlation between ΣSFR and Σ*, implying that star formation rate (SFR) is entirely driven by the amount of molecular gas, while its dependence on stellar mass (i.e. the resolved star forming main sequence, rSFMS) simply emerges as a consequence of the relationship between molecular gas and stellar mass.

     
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  9. Abstract Galaxy mergers are predicted to trigger accretion onto the central supermassive black holes, with the highest rates occurring during final coalescence. Previously, we have shown elevated rates of both optical and mid-IR selected active galactic nuclei (AGN) in post-mergers, but to date the prevalence of X-ray AGN has not been examined in the same systematic way. We present XMM-Newton data of 43 post-merger galaxies selected from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey along with 430 non-interacting control galaxies matched in stellar mass, redshift, and environment in order to test for an excess of hard X-ray (2–10 keV) emission in post-mergers attributable to triggered AGN. We find 2 X-ray detections in the post-mergers ($4.7^{+9.3}_{-3.8}\%$) and 9 in the controls ($2.1^{+1.5}_{-1.0}\%$), an excess of $2.22^{+4.44}_{-2.22}$, where the confidence intervals are 90%. While we therefore do not find statistically significant evidence for an X-ray AGN excess in post-mergers (p = 0.26), we find a factor of ∼17 excess of mid-IR AGN in our sample, consistent with past work and inconsistent with the observed X-ray excess (p = 2.7 × 10−4). Dominant, luminous AGN are therefore more frequent in post-mergers, and the lack of a comparable excess of 2–10 keV X-ray AGN suggests that AGN in post-mergers are more likely to be heavily obscured. Our results are consistent with the post-merger stage being characterised by enhanced AGN fueling, heavy AGN obscuration, and more intrinsically luminous AGN, in line with theoretical predictions. 
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  10. ABSTRACT We investigate the spatial structure and evolution of star formation and the interstellar medium (ISM) in interacting galaxies. We use an extensive suite of parsec-scale galaxy-merger simulations (stellar mass ratio = 2.5:1), which employs the ‘Feedback In Realistic Environments-2’ model (fire-2). This framework resolves star formation, feedback processes, and the multiphase structure of the ISM. We focus on the galaxy-pair stages of interaction. We find that close encounters substantially augment cool (H i) and cold-dense (H2) gas budgets, elevating the formation of new stars as a result. This enhancement is centrally concentrated for the secondary galaxy, and more radially extended for the primary. This behaviour is weakly dependent on orbital geometry. We also find that galaxies with elevated global star formation rate (SFR) experience intense nuclear SFR enhancement, driven by high levels of either star formation efficiency (SFE) or available cold-dense gas fuel. Galaxies with suppressed global SFR also contain a nuclear cold-dense gas reservoir, but low SFE levels diminish SFR in the central region. Concretely, in the majority of cases, SFR enhancement in the central kiloparsec is fuel-driven (55 per cent for the secondary, 71 per cent for the primary) – while central SFR suppression is efficiency-driven (91 per cent for the secondary, 97 per cent for the primary). Our numerical predictions underscore the need of substantially larger, and/or merger-dedicated, spatially resolved galaxy surveys – capable of examining vast and diverse samples of interacting systems – coupled with multiwavelength campaigns aimed to capture their internal ISM structure. 
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