Gaseous Merger Signatures in Early-Type Galaxies

Morgan, Jodie Rachelle, Department of Astronomy, University of Virginia
O'Connell, Robert, Department of Astronomy, University of Virginia

Two samples of early type galaxies are examined through very high spatial resolution studies of the surface brightnesses, colors sensitive to small admixtures of youthful stellar populations to probe the recent and possible future star formation histories of these galaxies and the spatial distributions of stellar populations. The two samples of early type galaxies are a test sample which have stellar surface brightness profiles with a central spike in light above a smoothly increasing profile and a control sample of galaxies which do not have the central light spike. This study used the Hubble Space Telescope in the Near-Ultraviolet, the Ultraviolet, and the V bands. The high spatial resolution of 0. ′′ 027 per pixel and the spectral sensitivity (< S/N > 10) allow us to examine to high accuracy the spatial distribution of light in each band, the total integrated colors of the galaxies and the color changes with radius within each galaxy, and the structure and colors of the detected central components. Bright (M V of -10.5 to -13.5 mag) and compact (r c of 1–16 pc) central components are detected through fits to the surface brightness profiles. Total galaxy colors, which are unaffected by the central components, as well as the radial distributions of color in the NUV − VU− V plane are consistent with multiple generations and multiple structures of stellar populations in this sample of early type galaxies. Many of the compact central component colors are individually also consistent with multigenerational stellar populations. The detections in this work of multiple spatial and temporal compositions of stellar populations in early-type galaxies, multiple generation compact stellar components coincident with the centers of some early-type galaxies lends support towards the formation of some early-type galaxies through recent (0.5 to 5 Gyr ago) gas-rich processes such as the hierarchical merging of gas-rich disk galaxies.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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