Stellar Tidal Streams In Spiral Galaxies Of The Local Volume: A Pilot Survey With Modest Aperture Telescopes

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Martinez-Delgado, David
Gabany, R. Jay
Crawford, Ken
Zibetti, Stefano
Majewski, Steven R.
Rix, Hans-Walter
Fliri, Jurgen
Carballo-Bello, Julio A.
Bardalez-Gagliuffi, Daniella C.
Penarrubia, Jorge

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Within the hierarchical framework for galaxy formation, minor merging and tidal interactions are expected to shape all large galaxies to the present day. As a consequence, most seemingly normal disk galaxies should be surrounded by spatially extended stellar >tidal features> of low surface brightness. As part of a pilot survey for such interaction signatures, we have carried out ultra deep, wide field imaging of eight isolated spiral galaxies in the Local Volume, with data taken at small (D = 0.1-0.5 m) robotic telescopes that provide exquisite surface brightness sensitivity (mu(lim)(V) similar to 28.5 mag arcsec(-2)). This initial observational effort has led to the discovery of six previously undetected extensive (to similar to 30 kpc) stellar structures in the halos surrounding these galaxies, likely debris from tidally disrupted satellites. In addition, we confirm and clarify several enormous stellar over-densities previously reported in the literature, but never before interpreted as tidal streams. Even this pilot sample of galaxies exhibits strikingly diverse morphological characteristics of these extended stellar features: great circle-like features that resemble the Sagittarius stream surrounding the Milky Way, remote shells and giant clouds of presumed tidal debris far beyond the main stellar body, as well as jet-like features emerging from galactic disks. Together with presumed remains of already disrupted companions, our observations also capture surviving satellites caught in the act of tidal disruption. A qualitative comparison with available simulations set in a Lambda Cold Dark Matter cosmology (that model the stellar halo as the result of satellite disruption evolution) shows that the extraordinary variety of stellar morphologies detected in this pilot survey matches that seen in those simulations. The common existence of these tidal features around >normal> disk galaxies and the morphological match to the simulations constitutes new evidence that these theoretical models also apply to a large number of other Milky Way-mass disk galaxies in the Local Volume.



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Martínez-Delgado, David, R. Jay Gabany, Ken Crawford, Stefano Zibetti, Steven R. Majewski, Hans-Walter Rix, Jürgen Fliri et al. >Stellar tidal streams in spiral galaxies of the local volume: a pilot survey with modest aperture telescopes.> The Astronomical Journal, Vol. 140, No. 4 (Oct., 2010): 962.