Comparative study of asymmetry origin of galaxies in different environments. II. Near-infrared observations.
PLAUCHU-FRAYN I. and COZIOL R.
Abstract (from CDS):
In this second paper of two analyses, we present near-infrared (NIR) morphological and asymmetry studies performed in a sample of 92 galaxies found in different density environments: galaxies in compact groups (CGs; HCGs in the Hickson Catalog of Compact Groups of Galaxies), isolated pairs of galaxies (KPGs in Karachentsev's list of isolated pairs of galaxies), and isolated galaxies (KIGs in Karachentseva's Catalog of Isolated Galaxies). Both studies have proved useful for identifying the effect of interactions on galaxies. In the NIR, the properties of the galaxies in HCGs, KPGs, and KIGs are more similar than they are in the optical. This is because the NIR band traces the older stellar populations, which formed earlier and are more relaxed than the younger populations. However, we found asymmetries related to interactions in both KPG and HCG samples. In HCGs, the fraction of asymmetric galaxies is even higher than what we found in the optical. In the KPGs the interactions look like very recent events, while in the HCGs galaxies are more morphologically evolved and show properties suggesting they suffered more frequent interactions. The key difference seems to be the absence of star formation in the HCGs; while interactions produce intense star formation in the KPGs, we do not see this effect in the HCGs. This is consistent with the dry merger hypothesis; the interaction between galaxies in CGs is happening without the presence of gas. If the gas was spent in stellar formation (to build the bulge of the numerous early-type galaxies), then the HCGs possibly started interacting sometime before the KPGs. On the other hand, the dry interaction condition in CGs suggests that the galaxies are on merging orbits, and consequently such system cannot be that much older either. Cosmologically speaking, the difference in formation time between pairs of galaxies and CGs may be relatively small. The two phenomena are typical of the formation of structures in low-density environments. Their formation represents relatively recent events.