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The Lopsidedness of Present-Day Galaxies: Results from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey

T. Reichard, T. Heckman, G. Rudnick, J. Brinchmann, G. Kauffmann

Large-scale asymmetries in the stellar mass distribution in galaxies are believed to trace nonequilibrium situations in the luminous and/or dark matter component. These may arise in the aftermath of events such as mergers, accretion, and tidal interactions. These events are key in the evolution of galaxies. In this paper we quantify the large-scale lopsidedness of light distributions in 25,155 galaxies at z<0.06 from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Data Release 4 using the m=1 azimuthal Fourier mode. We show that the lopsided distribution of light is primarily due to a corresponding lopsidedness in the stellar mass distribution. Observational effects, such as seeing, Poisson noise, and inclination, introduce only small errors in lopsidedness for the majority of this sample. We find that lopsidedness correlates strongly with other basic galaxy structural parameters: galaxies with low concentration, stellar mass, and stellar surface mass density tend to be lopsided, while galaxies with high concentration, mass, and density are not. We find that the strongest and most fundamental relationship between lopsidedness and the other structural parameters is with the surface mass density. We also find, in agreement with previous studies, that lopsidedness tends to increase with radius. Both these results may be understood as a consequence of several factors. The outer regions of galaxies and low-density galaxies are more susceptible to tidal perturbations, and they also have longer dynamical times (so lopsidedness will last longer). They are also more likely to be affected by any underlying asymmetries in the dark matter halo.

The Astrophysical Journal
Volume 677, Page 186
2008 April

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Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço Universidade do Porto Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
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