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Galaxy pairs in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey - VI. The orbital extent of enhanced star formation in interacting galaxies
Patton, David R.; Torrey, Paul; Ellison, Sara L.; Mendel, J. Trevor; Scudder, Jillian M.
AA(Department of Physics and Astronomy, Trent University, 1600 West Bank Drive, Peterborough, ON K9J 7B8, Canada ), AB(Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA), AC(Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC V8P 1A1, Canada), AD(Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC V8P 1A1, Canada), AE(Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC V8P 1A1, Canada)
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters, Volume 433, Issue 1, p.L59-L63 (MNRAS Homepage)
Publication Date:
Astronomy Keywords:
galaxies: evolution, galaxies: interactions, galaxies: star formation
Abstract Copyright:
2013 The Authors Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society
Bibliographic Code:


We use pair and environmental classifications of ˜211 000 star-forming galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, along with a suite of merger simulations, to investigate the enhancement of star formation as a function of separation in galaxy pairs. Using a new technique for distinguishing between the influence of nearby neighbours and larger scale environment, we find a clear enhancement in star formation out to projected separations of ˜150 kpc, beyond which there is no net enhancement. We find the strongest enhancements at the smallest separations (especially <20 kpc), consistent with earlier work. Similar trends are seen in the simulations, which indicate that the strongest enhancements are produced in highly disturbed systems approaching final coalescence, whereas the more modest enhancements seen at wider separations are the result of starburst activity triggered at first pericentre passage, which persists as the galaxies move to larger separations. The absence of any net enhancement beyond 150 kpc provides reassurance that the detected enhancements are due to galaxy-galaxy interactions, rather than larger scale environmental effects or potential pair selection biases. A rough census indicates that 66 per cent of the enhanced star formation in our pair sample occurs at separations >30 kpc. We conclude that significant interaction-induced star formation is not restricted to merger remnants or galaxies with close companions; instead, a larger population of wider separation pairs exhibit enhanced star formation due to recent close encounters.

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