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The collective origin of spiral structures in disk galaxies

Author(s): D’Onghia E. | Vogelsberger M. | Hernquist L.

Journal: EPJ Web of Conferences
ISSN 2100-014X

Volume: 19;
Start page: 07004;
Date: 2012;
Original page

After almost fifty years the origin of spiral arms in disk galaxies remains one of the major unsolved problems in astrophysics. Recent attempts have indicated that substructures in the dark matter halos of galaxies could induce spiral patterns in disks by generating localized disturbances that grow by swing amplification. However, there are indications that dark matter substructures orbiting in the inner regions of galaxy halos would be destroyed by dynamical processes such as disk shocking, and hence would not be able to seed the formation of spiral structure. Instead, we use numerical simulations of unprecedented resolution explore the possibility that spiral arms might be generated by the dynamical response of the disk to overdensities corotating within the disk. These perturbations can be identified with fluctuations in the distribution of gas in the interstellar medium of galaxies, such as giant molecular clouds. We develop a new theory for spiral structure formation based on the non-linear effects of swing amplification. Our model makes numerous testable predictions, making it possible to finally confront theory with observations.
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