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An ever-present Gaia snail shell triggered by a dark matter wake

Grand, Robert J J, Pakmor, Rüdiger, Fragkoudi, Francesca, Gómez, Facundo A, Trick, Wilma, Simpson, Christine M, van de Voort, Freeke ORCID: and Bieri, Rebekka 2023. An ever-present Gaia snail shell triggered by a dark matter wake. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 524 (1) , 801–816. 10.1093/mnras/stad1969

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We utilize a novel numerical technique to model star formation in cosmological simulations of galaxy formation – called SUPERSTARS – to simulate a Milky Way-like galaxy with ≳108 star particles to study the formation and evolution of out-of-equilibrium stellar disc structures in a full cosmological setting. In the plane defined by the coordinate and velocity perpendicular to the mid-plane [vertical phase space, (Z, VZ)], stars in solar-like volumes at late times exhibit clear spirals qualitatively similar in shape and amplitude to the Gaia ‘snail shell’ phase spiral. We show that the phase spiral forms at a lookback time of ∼6 Gyr during the pericentric passage of an ∼1010M⊙ satellite on a polar orbit. This satellite stimulates the formation of a resonant wake in the dark matter halo while losing mass at a rate of ∼0.5–1 dex per orbit loop. The peak magnitude of the wake-induced gravitational torque at the solar radius is ∼8 times that from the satellite, and triggers the formation of a disc warp that wraps up into a vertical phase spiral over time. As the wake decays, the phase spiral propagates several gigayears to present day and can be described as ‘ever-present’ once stable disc evolution is established. These results suggest an alternative scenario to explain the Gaia phase spiral, which does not rely on a perturbation from bar buckling or a recent direct hit from a satellite.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Physics and Astronomy
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 0035-8711
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 20 October 2023
Date of Acceptance: 27 June 2023
Last Modified: 26 Oct 2023 09:15

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