Inside Out and Upside-Down: The Roles of Gas Cooling and Dynamical Heating in Shaping the Stellar Age-Velocity Relation

26 May 2020  ·  Bird Jonathan C., Loebman Sarah R., Weinberg David H., Brooks Alyson, Quinn Thomas R., Christensen Charlotte R. ·

Kinematic studies of disk galaxies, using individual stars in the Milky Way or statistical studies of global disk kinematics over time, provide insight into how disks form and evolve. We use a high-resolution, cosmological zoom-simulation of a Milky Way-mass disk galaxy h277 to tie together local disk kinematics and the evolution of the disk over time... The present-day stellar age-velocity relationship (AVR) of h277 is nearly identical to that of the analogous solar-neighborhood measurement in the Milky Way. A crucial element of this success is the simulation's dynamically cold multi-phase ISM, which allows young stars to form with a low velocity dispersion ($\sigma_{\mathrm{birth}}$$\sim 6 - 8\ \mathrm{km}\, \mathrm{s}^{-1}$) at late times. Older stars are born kinematically hotter (i.e., the disk settles over time in an "upside-down" formation scenario), and are subsequently heated after birth. The disk also grows "inside-out", and many of the older stars in the solar neighborhood at $z=0$ are present because of radial mixing. We demonstrate that the evolution of $\sigma_{\mathrm{birth}}$ in h277 can be explained by the same model used to describe the general decrease in velocity dispersion observed in disk galaxies from $z\sim 2-3$ to the present-day, in which the disk evolves in quasi-stable equilibrium and the ISM velocity dispersion decreases over time due to a decreasing gas fraction. Thus, our results tie together local observations of the Milky Way's AVR with observed kinematics of high $z$ disk galaxies. read more

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Astrophysics of Galaxies