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K. A. Knierman (Steward Observatory, University of Arizona), P.M. Knezek (WIYN)
Does the tidal debris of minor mergers contribute to structures in the halo of spiral galaxies or in the intergalactic medium? While major mergers are known to create structures such as tidal dwarf galaxies and star clusters within their tidal debris, not much is known about minor mergers (mass ratios between a dwarf galaxy and disk galaxy of less than one-third) and their tidal debris. This work surveys 15 minor mergers in optical and infrared to gain insight into characterizing the clumps within their tidal debris in terms of size, location, number, mass, and age. One example from this study of nearby minor mergers, NGC 2782, will be presented here. The peculiar spiral, NGC 2782, is the result of a merger between a two disk galaxies with a mass ratio of 0.25 occurring ~200 Myr ago. This merger produced an HI-poor, optically bright Eastern tail and an HI-rich, optically faint Western tail. Deep optical and near-infrared images in UBVRJHK reveal the presence of blue (B-V ~-0.3) clusters along both tails, suggesting that they are young and possibly formed within the tail. The presence of young clusters in the Western tail is unexpected due to the lack of molecular gas observed in previous studies. These results suggest that star cluster formation is a common outcome of minor mergers regardless of gas content in the tidal debris.
K.Knierman is funded by an Arizona/NASA Space Grant Graduate Fellowship.
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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #4
© 2005. The American Astronomical Soceity.