Astrophys. J., 766, 109 (2013/April-1)
Optical-near-infrared color gradients and merging history of elliptical galaxies.
KIM D. and IM M.
Abstract (from CDS):
It has been suggested that merging plays an important role in the formation and the evolution of elliptical galaxies. While gas dissipation by star formation is believed to steepen metallicity and color gradients of the merger products, mixing of stars through dissipation-less merging (dry merging) is believed to flatten them. In order to understand the past merging history of elliptical galaxies, we studied the optical-near-infrared (NIR) color gradients of 204 elliptical galaxies. These galaxies are selected from the overlap region of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) Stripe 82 and the UKIRT Infrared Deep Sky Survey (UKIDSS) Large Area Survey (LAS). The use of optical and NIR data (g, r, and K) provides large wavelength baselines, and breaks the age-metallicity degeneracy, allowing us to derive age and metallicity gradients. The use of the deep SDSS Stripe 82 images makes it possible for us to examine how the color/age/metallicity gradients are related to merging features. We find that the optical-NIR color and the age/metallicity gradients of elliptical galaxies with tidal features are consistent with those of relaxed ellipticals, suggesting that the two populations underwent a similar merging history on average and that mixing of stars was more or less completed before the tidal features disappeared. Elliptical galaxies with dust features have steeper color gradients than the other two types, even after masking out dust features during the analysis, which can be due to a process involving wet merging. More importantly, we find that the scatter in the color/age/metallicity gradients of the relaxed and merging feature types decreases as their luminosities (or masses) increase at M > 1011.4 M☉ but stays large at lower luminosities. Mean metallicity gradients appear nearly constant over the explored mass range, but a possible flattening is observed at the massive end. According to our toy model that predicts how the distribution of metallicity gradients changes as a result of major dry merging, the mean metallicity gradient should flatten by 40% and its scatter becomes smaller by 80% per a mass-doubling scale if ellipticals evolve only through major dry merger. Our result, although limited by a number statistics at the massive end, is consistent with the picture that major dry merging is an important mechanism for the evolution for ellipticals at M > 1011.4 M☉, but is less important at the lower mass range.
galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD - galaxies: evolution - galaxies: interactions - galaxies: peculiar
VizieR on-line data:
<Available at CDS (J/ApJ/766/109): table2.dat>
View the references in ADS
To bookmark this query, right click on this link: simbad:2013ApJ...766..109K and select 'bookmark this link' or equivalent in the popup menu