Dissipation and Extra Light in Galactic Nuclei. II. "Cusp" Ellipticals

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Hopkins, Philip F.
Cox, Thomas J.
Dutta, Suvendra N.
Hernquist, Lars
Kormendy, John
Lauer, Tod R.

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We study the origin and properties of "extra" or "excess" central light in the surface brightness profiles of cusp or power-law elliptical galaxies. Dissipational mergers give rise to two-component profiles: an outer profile established by violent relaxation acting on stars already present in the progenitor galaxies prior to the final stages of the merger, and an inner stellar population comprising the extra light, formed in a compact central starburst. By combining a large set of hydrodynamical simulations with data that span a broad range of profiles at various masses, we show that observed cusp ellipticals appear consistent with the predicted "extra light" structure, and we use our simulations to motivate a two-component description of the observations that allows us to examine how the properties and mass of this component scale with, e. g., the mass, gas content, and other properties of the galaxies. We show how to robustly separate the physically meaningful extra light and outer, violently relaxed profile, and demonstrate that the observed cusps and "extra light" are reliable tracers of the degree of dissipation in the spheroid-forming merger. We show that the typical degree of dissipation is a strong function of stellar mass, roughly tracing the observed gas fractions of disks of the same mass over the redshift range z similar to 0-2. We demonstrate a correlation between the strength of this component and effective radius at fixed mass, in the sense that systems with more dissipation are more compact, sufficient to explain the discrepancy in the maximum phase-space and mass densities of ellipticals and their progenitor spirals. We show that the outer shape of the light profile in simulated and observed systems (when fit to properly account for the central light) does not depend on mass, with a mean outer Sersic index similar to 2.5. We also explore how this relates to, e. g., the shapes, kinematic properties, and stellar population gradients of ellipticals. Extra light contributes to making remnants rounder and diskier, and imprints stellar population gradients. Simulations with the gas content needed to match observed surface brightness profiles reproduce the observed age, metallicity, and color gradients of cusp ellipticals, and we make predictions for how these can be used as tracers of the degree of dissipation in spheroid Formation.



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Hopkins, Philip F., Thomas J. Cox, Suvendra N. Dutta, Lars Hernquist, John Kormendy, and Tod R. Lauer. "Dissipation and Extra Light in Galactic Nuclei. II." The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series, Vol. 181, No. 1 (Mar., 2009): 135.