Journal Article

Dynamical friction in dwarf galaxies

X. Hernandez and Gerard Gilmore

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 297, issue 2, pages 517-525
Published in print June 1998 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online June 1998 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Dynamical friction in dwarf galaxies

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We present a simplified analytic approach to the problem of the spiralling of a massive body orbiting within the dark halo of a dwarf galaxy. This dark halo is treated as the core region of a King distribution of dark matter particles, in consistency with the observational result of dwarf galaxies having solid-body rotation curves. Thus we derive a simple formula which provides a reliable and general first-order solution to the problem, totally analogous to the one corresponding to the dynamical friction problem in an isothermal halo. This analytic approach allows a clear handling and a transparent understanding of the physics and the scaling of the problem. A comparison with the isothermal case shows that in the core regions of a King sphere, dynamical friction proceeds at a different rate, and is sensitive to the total core radius. Thus, in principle, observable consequences may result. In order to illustrate the possible effects, we apply this formula to the spiralling of globular cluster orbits in dwarf galaxies, and show how present-day globular cluster systems could, in principle, be used to derive better limits on the structure of dark haloes around dwarf galaxies, when the observational situation improves. As a second application, we study the way a massive black hole population forming a fraction of these dark haloes would gradually concentrate towards the centre, with a consequent deformation of an originally solid-body rotation curve. This effect allows us to set limits on the fraction/mass of any massive black hole minority component of the dark haloes of dwarf galaxies. In essence, we take advantage of the way the global matter distribution fixes the local distribution function for the dark matter particles, which in turn determines the dynamical friction problem.

Keywords: galaxies: compact; galaxies: kinematics and dynamics; galaxies: structure; dark matter.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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