Are dry mergers dry, moist or wet?



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Sánchez Blázquez, P. and Gibson, B. K. and Kawata, D. and Cardiel López, Nicolás and Balcells, M. (2009) Are dry mergers dry, moist or wet? Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 400 (3). pp. 1264-1282. ISSN 0035-8711

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We present a spectral analysis of a sample of red-sequence galaxies identified by van Dokkum as dry merger remnants and ongoing dry mergers. Kinematics, stellar population absorption features and ionization from emission lines are derived. We find that approximately half of the sample showing strong tidal features have younger stellar populations than a control sample at a given velocity dispersion. Conversely, galaxies with weak tidal tails and/or ongoing mergers - with the exception of one galaxy - do not show this young component. This seems to indicate that the young stellar populations observed in a significant fraction of ellipticals is the consequence of star formation triggered by mergers. This young component is consistent with a light 'frosting' of young stars (< 2 per cent by mass) superimposed upon a dominant, old (similar to 11 Gyr), stellar population. In terms of stellar populations, these mergers are, in fact, fairly dry. We found, however, that merger remnants with young stellar populations are supported by rotation, contrary to the expectations of a major dry merger. This suggests that the small amount of gas involved has been sufficient to produce a dynamically cold stellar component. Half of the galaxies with strong tidal distortion, however, are slow rotating and have stellar populations compatible with the control sample at a given velocity dispersion. Remarkably, none of the galaxies with velocity dispersions in excess of 250 km s-1 (the putative transition between dry and wet mergers) has a young stellar component, independent of the merger stage.

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This article has been accepted for publication in Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. © 2009 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2009 RAS. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved. PSB acknowledges the support of a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship within the sixth European Community Framework Programme. BKG acknowledges the support of the UK’s Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC Grant ST/F002432/1) and the Commonwealth Cosmology Initiative. This paper is based on observations obtained at the William Herschel Telescope, operated by the Isaac Newton Group in the Spanish Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias. NC acknowledges financial support from the Spanish Programa Nacional de Astronomía y Astrofísica under grant AYA2006–15698–C02–02.

Uncontrolled Keywords:Early-type galaxies; Stellar population-models; Velocity dispersion drops; Massive elliptic galaxies; Newton-telescope library; Absorption-line spectra; Hubble-space-telescope; Star-forming galaxies; Red-sequence; Sauron project
Subjects:Sciences > Physics > Astrophysics
Sciences > Physics > Astronomy
Sciences > Physics > Atmospheric physics
ID Code:28017
Deposited On:02 Feb 2015 10:23
Last Modified:10 Dec 2018 15:05

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