Monday, July 15, 2013

1307.3322 (Chunyan Jiang et al.)

A scaling relation between merger rate of galaxies and their close pair count    [PDF]

Chunyan Jiang, Yipeng Jing, Jiaxin Han
When the galaxy merger rate is measured from the observed close pair count, usually a single merger timescale is assumed. Current calibrations based on simulations have focused mostly on major mergers (stellar mass ratios from 1:1 to 1:4). Using a high-resolution N-body/SPH cosmological simulation, we find an accurate scaling relation between galaxy pair counts and merger rates down to a stellar mass ratio of about 1:30. The relation explicitly accounts for the dependence on redshift (or time), pair separation, and virial masses of the two galaxies in a pair. With this relation, one can easily obtain the mean merger timescale for a close pair of galaxies. The use of virial masses, instead of the stellar mass, is motivated by the fact that the dynamical friction time scale is mainly determined by the dark matter surrounding central and satellite galaxies. This fact can also minimize the error induced by uncertainties in modeling star formation in the simulations. Since the virial mass can be read from the well-established relation between the virial masses and the stellar masses in observation, our scaling relation can be easily applied to observations to obtain the merger rate and merger time scale. For major merger pairs (1:1-1:4) of galaxies above 4*10^10 M_sun/h at z=0.1, it takes about 0.31 Gyr to merge for pairs within a projected distance of 20 kpc/h with stellar mass ratio of 1:1, while the time taken goes up to 1.6 Gyr for mergers with stellar mass ratio of 1:4. Our results indicate that a single timescale is not enough to describe mergers with the stellar mass ratio spanning even a narrow range from 1:1 to 1:4.
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