Journal Article

Simulations of the formation and evolution of isolated dwarf galaxies

S. Valcke, S. De Rijcke and H. Dejonghe

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 389, issue 3, pages 1111-1126
Published in print September 2008 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online September 2008 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2008.13654.x
Simulations of the formation and evolution of isolated dwarf galaxies

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We present new fully self-consistent models of the formation and evolution of isolated dwarf galaxies (DGs). We have used the publicly available N-body/smoothed particle hydrodynamics (SPH) code hydra, to which we have added a set of star formation criteria, and prescriptions for chemical enrichment [taking into account contributions from both Type Ia supernova (SN Ia) and Type II supernova (SN II)], supernova feedback, and gas cooling. We extensively tested the soundness of these prescriptions and the numerical convergence of the models. The models follow the evolution of an initially homogeneous gas cloud collapsing in a pre-existing dark matter (DM) halo. These simplified initial conditions are supported by the merger trees of isolated DGs extracted from the milli-Millennium Simulation. The star formation histories (SFHs) of the model galaxies exhibit burst-like behaviour. These bursts are a consequence of the blow-out and subsequent in-fall of gas. The amount of gas that leaves the galaxy for good is found to be small, in absolute numbers, ranging between 3 × 107 and 6 × 107M. For the least massive models, however, this is over 80 per cent of their initial gas mass. The local fluctuations in gas density are strong enough to trigger starbursts in the massive models, or to inhibit anything more than small residual star formation (SF) for the less massive models. Between these starbursts there can be time intervals of several gigayears.

The models' surface brightness profiles are well fitted by Sérsic profiles and the correlations between the models' Sérsic parameters and luminosity agree with the observations. We have also compared model predictions for the half-light radius Re, central velocity dispersion σc, broad-band colour Bv, metallicity [Z/Z] versus luminosity relations and for the location relative to the fundamental plane with the available data. The properties of the model DGs agree quite well with those of observed DGs. However, the properties of the most massive models deviate from those of observed galaxies. This most likely signals that galaxy mergers are starting to affect the galaxies' SFHs in this mass regime (M≳ 109M).

We found that a good way to assess the soundness of models is provided by the combination of Re and σc. The demand that these are reproduced simultaneously places a stringent constraint on the spatial distribution of SF and on the shape and extent of the DM halo relative to that of the stars.

Keywords: methods: N-body simulations; galaxies: dwarf; galaxies: evolution; galaxies: formation

Journal Article.  11856 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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