Astronomy and Astrophysics, volume 373, 402-437 (2001/7-2)
Properties of tidally-triggered vertical disk perturbations.
SCHWARZKOPF U. and DETTMAR R.-J.
Abstract (from CDS):
We present a detailed analysis of the properties of warps and tidally-triggered perturbations perpendicular to the plane of 47 interacting/merging edge-on spiral galaxies. The derived parameters are compared with those obtained for a sample of 61 non-interacting edge-on spirals. The entire optical (R-band) sample used for this study was presented in two previous papers. We find that the scale height of disks in the interacting/merging sample is characterized by perturbations on both large (≃ disk cut-off radius) and short (≃z0) scales, with amplitudes of the order of 280pc and 130pc on average, respectively. The size of these large (short) -scale instabilities corresponds to 14% (6%) of the mean disk scale height. This is a factor of 2 (1.5) larger than the value found for non-interacting galaxies. A hallmark of nearly all tidally distorted disks is a scale height that increases systematically with radial distance. The frequent occurrence and the significantly larger size of these gradients indicate that disk asymmetries on large scales are a common and persistent phenomenon, while local disturbances and bending instabilities decline on shorter timescales. Nearly all (93%) of the interacting/merging and 45% of the non-interacting galaxies studied are noticeably warped. Warps of interacting/merging galaxies are ≃2.5 times larger on average than those observed in the non-interacting sample, with sizes of the order of 340pc and 140pc, respectively. This indicates that tidal distortions do considerably contribute to the formation and size of warps. However, they cannot entirely explain the frequent occurrence of warped disks.