Gravitational tides are widely understood to strip and destroy galactic substructures. In the course of a galaxy merger, however, transient totally compressive tides may develop and prevent star-forming regions from dissolving after they condensed to form clusters of stars. We study the statistics of such compressive modes in an N-body model of the galaxy merger NGC 4038/39 (the Antennae) and show that ≃15 per cent of the disc material undergoes compressive tides at pericentre. The spatial distribution of observed young clusters in the overlap and nuclear regions of the Antennae matches surprisingly well the location of compressive tides obtained from simulation data. Furthermore, the statistics of time intervals spent by individual particles embedded in a compressive tide yields a log-normal distribution of characteristic time τ∼ 10 Myr, comparable to star cluster formation time-scales. We argue that this generic process is operative in galaxy mergers at all redshifts and possibly enhances the formation of star clusters. We show with a model calculation that this process will prevent the dissolution of a star cluster during the formation phase, even for a star formation efficiency ε as low as ∼10 per cent. The transient nature of compressive tides implies that clusters may dissolve rapidly once the tidal field switches to the usual disruptive mode.
|Journal||Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters|
|Publication status||Published - 2008 Nov 1|
Subject classification (UKÄ)
- Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology
- stars: formation, galaxies: evolution, galaxies: interactions, galaxies: starburst, galaxies: star clusters, Astrophysics