Journal Article

The effects of gas on morphological transformation in mergers: implications for bulge and disc demographics

Philip F. Hopkins, Rachel S. Somerville, Thomas J. Cox, Lars Hernquist, Shardha Jogee, Dusan Kereš, Chung-Pei Ma, Brant Robertson and Kyle Stewart

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 397, issue 2, pages 802-814
Published in print August 2009 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online July 2009 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
The effects of gas on morphological transformation in mergers: implications for bulge and disc demographics

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Transformation of discs into spheroids via mergers is a well-accepted element of galaxy formation models. However, recent simulations have shown that the bulge formation is suppressed in increasingly gas-rich mergers. We investigate the global implications of these results in a cosmological framework, using independent approaches: empirical halo-occupation models (where galaxies are populated in haloes according to observations) and semi-analytic models. In both, ignoring the effects of gas in mergers leads to the overproduction of spheroids: low- and intermediate-mass galaxies are predicted to be bulge-dominated (B/T∼ 0.5 at <1010 M, with almost no ‘bulgeless’ systems), even if they have avoided major mergers. Including the different physical behaviour of gas in mergers immediately leads to a dramatic change: bulge formation is suppressed in low-mass galaxies, observed to be gas-rich (giving B/T∼ 0.1 at <1010 M, with a number of bulgeless galaxies in good agreement with observations). Simulations and analytic models which neglect the similarity-breaking behaviour of gas have difficulty reproducing the strong observed morphology–mass relation. However, the observed dependence of gas fractions on mass, combined with suppression of bulge formation in gas-rich mergers, naturally leads to the observed trends. Discrepancies between observations and models that ignore the role of gas increase with redshift; in models that treat gas properly, galaxies are predicted to be less bulge-dominated at high redshifts, in agreement with the observations. We discuss implications for the global bulge mass density and future observational tests.

Keywords: galaxies: active; galaxies: evolution; galaxies: formation; galaxies: spiral; cosmology: theory

Journal Article.  10967 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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