BRANCH, SPUR, AND FEATHER FORMATION IN SPIRAL GALAXIES

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Author(s)

Detail(s)

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-239
Journal / PublicationAstrophysical Journal
Volume596
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2003
Externally publishedYes

Abstract

We use hydrodynamic simulations to investigate the response of geometrically thin, self-gravitating, singular isothermal disks of gas to imposed rigidly rotating spiral potentials. By minimizing reflection-induced feedback from boundaries, and by restricting our attention to models where the swing parameter X ∼ 10, we minimize the swing amplification of global normal modes even in models where Toomre's Qg ∼ 1-2 in the gas disk. We perform two classes of simulations: short-term ones over a few galactic revolutions where the background spiral forcing is large, and long-term ones over many galactic revolutions where the spiral forcing is considerably smaller. In both classes of simulations, the initial response of the gas disk is smooth and mimics the driving spiral field. At late times, many of the models evince substructure akin to the so-called branches, spurs, and feathers observed in real spiral galaxies. We comment on the parts played respectively by ultraharmonic resonances, reflection off internal features produced by nonlinear dredging, and local, transient, gravitational instabilities within spiral arms in the generation of such features. Our simulations reinforce the idea that spiral structure in the gaseous component becomes increasingly flocculent and disordered with the passage of time, even when the background population of old disk stars is a grand-design spiral. We speculate that truly chaotic behavior arises when many overlapping ultraharmonic resonances develop in reaction to an imposed spiral forcing that has itself a nonlinear, yet smooth, wave profile.

Research Area(s)

  • galaxies: spiral, galaxies: structure, hydrodynamics, instabilities, stellar dynamics

Citation Format(s)

BRANCH, SPUR, AND FEATHER FORMATION IN SPIRAL GALAXIES. / CHAKRABARTI, S.; LAUGHLIN, G.; SHU, F. H.

In: Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 596, No. 1, 10.10.2003, p. 220-239.

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review