We combine deep optical and radio data, from the Hyper Suprime-Cam and the Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR), respectively, to study 78 radio active galactic nuclei (AGN) in nearby (z < 0.5) dwarf galaxies. Comparison to a control sample, matched in stellar mass and redshift, indicates that the AGN and controls reside in similar environments, show similar star formation rates (which trace gas availability) and exhibit a comparable incidence of tidal features (which indicate recent interactions). We explore the AGN properties by combining the predicted gas conditions in dwarfs from a cosmological hydrodynamical simulation with a Monte Carlo suite of simulated radio sources, based on a semi-analytical model for radio-galaxy evolution. In the subset of LOFAR-detectable simulated sources, which have a similar distribution of radio luminosities as our observed AGN, the median jet powers, ages, and accretion rates are ~1035 W, ~5 Myr, and ~10-3.4 M⊙ yr-1, respectively. The median mechanical energy output of these sources is ~100 times larger than the median binding energy expected in dwarf gas reservoirs, making AGN feedback plausible. Since special circumstances (in terms of environment, gas availability, and interactions) are not necessary for the presence of AGN, and the central gas masses are predicted to be an order of magnitude larger than that required to fuel the AGN, AGN triggering in dwarfs is likely to be stochastic and a common phenomenon. Together with the plausibility of energetic feedback, this suggests that AGN could be important drivers of dwarf galaxy evolution, as is the case in massive galaxies.
for publication by MNRAS(pdf)
We use the NEWHORIZON simulation to study the redshift evolution of bar properties and fractions within galaxies in the stellar masses range M⋆ = 107.25-1011.4 M⊙ over the redshift range of z = 0.25-1.3. We select disc galaxies using stellar kinematics as a proxy for galaxy morphology. We employ two different automated bar detection methods, coupled with visual inspection, resulting in observable bar fractions of fbar = 0.070 +0.018−0.012 at z ~ 1.3, decreasing to fbar = 0.011 +0.014−0.003 at z ~ 0.25. Only one galaxy is visually confirmed as strongly barred in our sample. This bar is hosted by the most massive disc and only survives from z = 1.3 down to z = 0.7. Such a low bar fraction, in particular amongst Milky Way-like progenitors, highlights a missing bars problem, shared by literally all cosmological simulations with spatial resolution <100 pc to date. The analysis of linear growth rates, rotation curves, and derived summary statistics of the stellar, gas and dark matter components suggest that galaxies with stellar masses below 109.5-1010 M⊙
in NEWHORIZON appear to be too dominated by dark matter relative to stellar content to form a bar, while more massive galaxies typically have formed large bulges that prevent bar persistence at low redshift. This investigation confirms that the evolution of the bar fraction puts stringent constraints on the assembly history of baryons and dark matter on to galaxies.
for publication by MNRAS(pdf)
Tidal features in the outskirts of galaxies yield unique information about their past interactions and are a key prediction of the hierarchical structure formation paradigm. The Vera C. Rubin Observatory is poised to deliver deep observations for potentially millions of objects with visible tidal features, but the inference of galaxy interaction histories from such features is not straightforward. Utilizing automated techniques and human visual classification in conjunction with realistic mock images produced using the NEWHORIZON cosmological simulation, we investigate the nature, frequency, and visibility of tidal features and debris across a range of environments and stellar masses. In our simulated sample, around 80 per cent of the flux in the tidal features around Milky Way or greater mass galaxies is detected at the 10-yr depth of the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (30-31 mag arcsec-2), falling to 60 per cent assuming a shallower final depth of 29.5 mag arcsec-2. The fraction of total flux found in tidal features increases towards higher masses, rising to 10 per cent for the most massive objects in our sample (M⋆ ~ 1011.5 M⊙). When observed at sufficient depth, such objects frequently exhibit many distinct tidal features with complex shapes. The interpretation and characterization of such features varies significantly with image depth and object orientation, introducing significant biases in their classification. Assuming the data reduction pipeline is properly optimized, we expect the Rubin Observatory to be capable of recovering much of the flux found in the outskirts of Milky Way mass galaxies, even at intermediate redshifts (z < 0.2).
for publication to MNRAS(pdf)
We explore how observations relate to the physical properties of the emitting galaxies by post-processing a pair of merging z ~ 2 galaxies from the cosmological, hydrodynamical simulation NEWHORIZON, using LCARS (Light from Cloudy Added to RAMSES) to encode the physical properties of the simulated galaxy into H α emission line. By carrying out mock observations and analysis on these data cubes, we ascertain which physical properties of the galaxy will be recoverable with the HARMONI spectrograph on the European Extremely Large Telescope (ELT). We are able to estimate the galaxy's star formation rate and dynamical mass to a reasonable degree of accuracy, with values within a factor of 1.81 and 1.38 of the true value. The kinematic structure of the galaxy is also recovered in mock observations. Furthermore, we are able to recover radial profiles of the velocity dispersion and are therefore able to calculate how the dynamical ratio varies as a function of distance from the galaxy centre. Finally, we show that when calculated on galaxy scales the dynamical ratio does not always provide a reliable measure of a galaxy's stability against gravity or act as an indicator of a minor merger.
for publication to MNRAS(pdf)