Mergers drive spin swings along the cosmic web [CEA]

The close relationship between mergers and the reorientation of the spin for galaxies and their host dark haloes is investigated using a cosmological hydrodynamical simulation (Horizon-AGN). Through a statistical analysis of merger trees, we show that spin swings are mainly driven by mergers along the filamentary structure of the cosmic web, and that these events account for the preferred perpendicular orientation of massive galaxies with respect to their nearest filament. By contrast, low-mass galaxies (M_s<10^10 M_sun at redshift 1.5) undergoing very few mergers, if at all, tend to possess a spin well aligned with their filament. Haloes follow the same trend as galaxies but display a greater sensitivity to smooth anisotropic accretion. The relative effect of mergers on spin magnitude is qualitatively different for minor and major mergers: mergers (and diffuse accretion) generally increase the magnitude of the angular momentum, but the most massive major mergers also give rise to a population of objects with less spin left. Without mergers secular accretion builds up the spin of galaxies but not that of haloes. It also (re)aligns galaxies with their filament.

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C. Welker, J. Devriendt, Y. Dubois, et. al.
Thu, 13 Mar 14