Journal Article Gas and stellar spiral structures in tidally perturbed disc galaxies

Pettitt, Alex R.  ,  Tasker, Elizabeth J.  ,  Wadsley, James W.

458 ( 4 )  , pp.3990 - 4007 , 2016-06-02 , Oxford University Press
Tidal interactions between disc galaxies and low-mass companions are an established method for generating galactic spiral features. In this work, we present a study of the structure and dynamics of spiral arms driven in interactions between disc galaxies and perturbing companions in 3D N-body/smoothed hydrodynamical numerical simulations. Our specific aims are to characterize any differences between structures formed in the gas and stars from a purely hydrodynamical and gravitational perspective, and to find a limiting case for spiral structure generation. Through analysis of a number of different interacting cases, we find that there is very little difference between arm morphology, pitch angles and pattern speeds between the two media. The main differences are a minor offset between gas and stellar arms, clear spurring features in gaseous arms, and different radial migration of material in the stronger interacting cases. We investigate the minimum mass of a companion required to drive spiral structure in a galactic disc, finding the limiting spiral generation cases with companion masses of the order of 1 x 10(9) M-circle dot, equivalent to only 4 per cent of the stellar disc mass, or 0.5 per cent of the total galactic mass of a Milky Way analogue.

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