HALO ORBITS IN COSMOLOGICAL DISK GALAXIES: TRACERS OF FORMATION HISTORY Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • We analyze the orbits of stars and dark matter particles in the halo of a disk galaxy formed in a cosmological hydrodynamical simulation. The halo is oblate within the inner ~20 kpc and triaxial beyond this radius. About 43% of orbits are short axis tubes - the rest belong to orbit families that characterize triaxial potentials (boxes, long-axis tubes and chaotic orbits), but their shapes are close to axisymmetric. We find no evidence that the self-consistent distribution function of the nearly oblate inner halo is comprised primarily of axisymmetric short-axis tube orbits. Orbits of all families, and both types of particles are highly eccentric with mean eccentricity >0.6. We find that randomly selected samples of halo stars show no substructure in "integrals of motion" space. However individual accretion events can be clearly identified in plots of metallicity versus formation time. Dynamically young tidal debris is found primarily on a single type of orbit. However, stars associated with older satellites become chaotically mixed during the formation process (possibly due to scattering by the central bulge and disk, and baryonic processes), and appear on all four types of orbits. We find that the tidal debris in cosmological hydrodynamical simulations experiences significantly more chaotic evolution than in collisionless simulations, making it much harder to identify individual progenitors using phase space coordinates alone. However by combining information on stellar ages and chemical abundances with the orbital properties of halo stars in the underlying self-consistent potential, the identification of progenitors is likely to be possible.

publication date

  • April 10, 2013