Journal Article

Structures in the fundamental plane of early-type galaxies

D. Fraix-Burnet, M. Dugué, T. Chattopadhyay, A. K. Chattopadhyay and E. Davoust

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 407, issue 4, pages 2207-2222
Published in print October 2010 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online July 2010 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2010.17097.x
Structures in the fundamental plane of early-type galaxies

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The fundamental plane of early-type galaxies is a rather tight three-parameter correlation discovered more than 20 yr ago. It has resisted both a global and precise physical interpretation despite a consequent number of works, observational, theoretical or using numerical simulations. It appears that its precise properties depend on the population of galaxies in study. Instead of selecting a priori these populations, we propose to objectively construct homologous populations from multivariate analyses. We have undertaken multivariate cluster and cladistic analyses of a sample of 56 low-redshift galaxy clusters containing 699 early-type galaxies, using four parameters: effective radius, velocity dispersion, surface brightness averaged over effective radius and Mg2 index. All our analyses are consistent with seven groups that define separate regions on the global fundamental plane, not across its thickness. In fact, each group shows its own fundamental plane, which is more loosely defined for less diversified groups. We conclude that the global fundamental plane is not a bent surface, but made of a collection of several groups characterizing several fundamental planes with different thicknesses and orientations in the parameter space. Our diversification scenario probably indicates that the level of diversity is linked to the number and the nature of transforming events and that the fundamental plane is the result of several transforming events. We also show that our classification, not the fundamental planes, is universal within our redshift range (0.007–0.053). We find that the three groups with the thinnest fundamental planes presumably formed through dissipative (wet) mergers. In one of them, this(ese) merger(s) must have been quite ancient because of the relatively low metallicity of its galaxies, Two of these groups have subsequently undergone dry mergers to increase their masses. In the k-space, the third one clearly occupies the region where bulges (of lenticular or spiral galaxies) lie and might also have formed through minor mergers and accretions. The two least diversified groups probably did not form by major mergers and must have been strongly affected by interactions, some of the gas in the objects of one of these groups having possibly been swept out. The interpretation, based on specific assembly histories of galaxies of our seven groups, shows that they are truly homologous. They were obtained directly from several observables, thus independently of any a priori classification. The diversification scenario relating these groups does not depend on models or numerical simulations, but is objectively provided by the cladistic analysis. Consequently, our classification is more easily compared to models and numerical simulations, and our work can be readily repeated with additional observables.

Keywords: methods: statistical; galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD; galaxies: evolution; galaxies: formation; galaxies: fundamental parameters

Journal Article.  13291 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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