Journal Article

Milky Way type galaxies in a ΛCDM cosmology

Maria E. De Rossi, Patricia B. Tissera, Gabriella De Lucia and Guinevere Kauffmann

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 395, issue 1, pages 210-217
Published in print May 2009 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online April 2009 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2009.14560.x
Milky Way type galaxies in a ΛCDM cosmology

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We analyse a sample of 52 000 Milky Way (MW) type galaxies drawn from the publicly available galaxy catalogue of the Millennium Simulation with the aim of studying statistically the differences and similarities of their properties in comparison to our Galaxy. Model galaxies are chosen to lie in haloes with maximum circular velocities in the range 200–250 km s−1 and to have bulge-to-disc ratios similar to that of the MW. We find that model MW galaxies formed ‘quietly’ through the accretion of cold gas and small satellite systems. Only ≈12 per cent of our model galaxies experienced a major merger during their lifetime. Most of the stars formed ‘in situ’, with only about 15 per cent of the final mass gathered through accretion. Supernovae (SNe) and active galactic nuclei (AGN) feedback play an important role in the evolution of these systems. At high redshifts, when the potential wells of the MW progenitors are shallower, winds driven by SNe explosions blow out a large fraction of the gas and metals. As the systems grow in mass, SNe feedback effects decrease and AGN feedback takes over, playing a more important role in the regulation of the star formation activity at lower redshifts. Although model MW galaxies have been selected to lie in a narrow range of maximum circular velocities, they nevertheless exhibit a significant dispersion in the final stellar masses and metallicities. Our analysis suggests that this dispersion results from the different accretion histories of the parent dark matter haloes. Statistically, we also find evidences to support the MW as a typical Sb/Sc galaxy in the same mass range, providing a suitable benchmark to constrain numerical models of galaxy formation.

Keywords: galaxies: abundances; galaxies: evolution; galaxies: formation; cosmology: theory

Journal Article.  5846 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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