Vol 23, No 9

Do Minor Interactions Trigger Star Formation in Galaxy Pairs?

Apashanka Das, Biswajit Pandey and Suman Sarkar


We analyze the galaxy pairs in a set of volume limited samples from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to study the effects of minor interactions on the star formation rate (SFR) and color of galaxies. We carefully design control samples of isolated galaxies by matching the stellar mass and redshift of the minor pairs. The SFR distributions and color distributions in the minor pairs differ from their controls at >99% significance level. We also simultaneously match the control galaxies in stellar mass, redshift and local density to assess the role of the environment. The null hypothesis can be rejected at >99% confidence level even after matching the environment. Our analysis shows a quenching in the minor pairs where the degree of quenching decreases with the increasing pair separation and plateaus beyond 50 kpc. We also prepare a sample of minor pairs with Hα line information. We calculate the SFR of these galaxies using the Hα line and repeat our analysis. We observe a quenching in the Hα sample too. We find that the majority of the minor pairs are quiescent systems that could be quenched due to minor interactions. Combining data from the Galaxy Zoo and Galaxy Zoo 2, we find that only ∼1% galaxies have a dominant bulge, 4%–7% galaxies host a bar and 5%–10% of galaxies show active galactic nucleus (AGN) activity in minor pairs. This indicates that the presence of bulge, bar or AGN activity plays an insignificant role in quenching the galaxies in minor pairs. The more massive companion satisfies the criteria for mass quenching in most of the minor pairs. We propose that the stripping and starvation likely caused the quenching in the less massive companion at a later stage of evolution.


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