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Physics and Astronomy


Galaxy evolution is driven to a large extent by interactions and mergers with other galaxies and the gas in galaxies is extremely sensitive to the interactions. One method to measure such interactions uses the quantified morphology of galaxy images. Well-established parameters are Concentration, Asymmetry, Smoothness, Gini and M20 of a galaxy image. Thus far, the application of this technique has mostly been restricted to rest-frame ultraviolet and optical images. However, with the new radio observatories being commissioned [South African Karoo Array Telescope (MeerKAT), Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP), Extended Very Large Array (EVLA), Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope/APERture Tile In Focus instrument (WSRT/APERTIF) and ultimately the Square Kilometer Array (SKA)], a new window on the neutral atomic hydrogen gas (H I) morphology of large numbers of galaxies will open up. The quantified morphology of gas discs of spirals can be an alternative indicator of the level and frequency of interaction. The H I in galaxies is typically spatially more extended and more sensitive to low-mass or weak interactions. In this paper, we explore six morphological parameters calculated over the extent of the stellar (optical) disc and the extent of the gas disc for a range of wavelengths spanning ultraviolet (UV), optical, near- and far-infrared and 21 cm (H I) of 28 galaxies from The H I Nearby Galaxy Survey (THINGS). Although the THINGS sample is small and contains only a single ongoing interaction, it spans both non-interacting and post-interacting galaxies with a wealth of multi-wavelength data. We find that the choice of area for the computation of the morphological parameters is less of an issue than the wavelength at which they are measured. The signal of interaction is as good in the H I as at any of the other wavelengths at which morphology has been used to trace the interaction rate to date, mostly star formation dominated ones (near- and far-ultraviolet). The Asymmetry and M20 parameters are the ones that show the most promise as tracers of interaction in 21 cm line observations.


This article has been accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Copyright: 2011. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

Original Publication Information

Holwerda, B. W., et al. "Quantified H I Morphology – I. Multi-wavelength Analysis of the THINGS Galaxies." 2011. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 416(4): 2401-2414.