Loops formed by tidal tails as fossil records of a major merger
Astronomy and Astrophysics
Many haloes of nearby disc galaxies contain faint and extended features, including loops, which are often interpreted as relics of satellite infall in the main galaxy's potential well. In most cases, however, the residual nucleus of the satellite is not seen, although it is predicted by numerical simulations. We test whether such faint and extended features can be associated to gas-rich, major mergers, which may also lead to disc rebuilding and thus be a corner stone for the formation of spiral
... formation of spiral galaxies. Using the TreeSPH code GADGET-2, we model the formation of an almost bulge-less galaxy similar to NGC 5907 (B/T $\le$ 0.2) after a gas-rich major merger. We indeed find that 3:1 major mergers can form features similar to the loops found in many galactic haloes, including in NGC 5907, and can reproduce an extended thin disc, a bulge, as well as the pronounced warp of the gaseous disc. Even though it remains difficult to fully cover the large volume of free parameters, the present modelling of the loops in NGC 5907 proves that they could well be the result of a major merger. It has many advantages over the satellite infall scenario; e.g., it solves the problem of the visibility of the satellite remnant, and it may explain some additional features in the NGC 5907 halo, as well as some gas properties of this system. For orbital parameters derived from cosmological simulations, the loops in NGC 5907 can be reproduced by major mergers (3:1 to 5:1) and possibly by intermediate mergers (5:1 to 12:1). The major merger scenario thus challenges the minor merger one and could explain many properties that haloes of spiral galaxies have in common, including their red colours and the presence of faint extended features.