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Insights from simulations on the consequences of uncertainties in estimating the masses of observed galaxies

CAMPBELL, DAVID,JAMES,ROWNEY (2017) Insights from simulations on the consequences of uncertainties in estimating the masses of observed galaxies. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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We make use of cutting-edge simulations of galaxy formation in a $\Lambda$ cold dark matter ($\Lambda$CDM) Universe to investigate the impact of the uncertainties inherent to certain observational techniques for estimating the masses of galaxies on the conclusions that are drawn from studies using such methods. By performing virtual 'observations' of simulated galaxies, we estimate their stellar and dynamical masses in the same way as in particular observational studies. The satellite galaxies of the Milky Way are highly attractive candidates for dynamical studies, due to their proximity; and in general, satellite galaxies dominate the clustering of galaxies on small scales. The total dynamical masses and internal mass distributions of individual galaxies, along with the clustering of galaxies as a function of intrinsic properties such as stellar mass, each reflect the structure and evolution history of the underlying invisible dark matter that forms the structural spine of the Universe and incubates the formation and evolution of galaxies over cosmic time.

The observed stellar kinematics of dispersion-supported galaxies are often used to measure dynamical masses. Recently, several analytical relationships between the stellar line-of-sight velocity dispersion, the projected (2D) or deprojected (3D) half-light radius, and the total mass enclosed within the half-light radius, relying on the spherical Jeans equation, have been proposed. Here, we make use of the APOSTLE cosmological hydrodynamical simulations of the Local Group to test the validity and accuracy of such mass estimators for both dispersion and rotation-supported galaxies, for field and satellite galaxies, and for galaxies of varying masses, shapes, and velocity dispersion anisotropies. We find that the mass estimators of Walker et al. and Wolf et al. are able to recover the masses of dispersion-dominated systems with little systematic bias, but with a $1\sigma$ scatter of 25 and 23 percent, respectively. The error on the estimated mass is dominated by the impact of the 3D shape of the stellar mass distribution, which is difficult to constrain observationally. This intrinsic scatter becomes the dominant source of uncertainty in the masses estimated for galaxies like the dwarf spheroidal (dSph) satellites of the Milky Way, where the observational errors in their sizes and velocity dispersions are small. Such scatter may also affect the inner density profile slopes of dSphs as derived from multiple stellar populations, relaxing the significance with which Navarro-Frenk-White profiles may be excluded, depending on the degree to which the relevant properties of the different stellar populations are correlated. Additionally, we derive a new optimal mass estimator that removes the residual biases and achieves a statistically significant reduction in the scatter to 20 percent overall for dispersion-dominated galaxies, allowing more precise and accurate mass estimates.

We present predictions for the two-point correlation function of galaxy clustering as a function of stellar mass, computed using two new versions of the GALFORM semi-analytic galaxy formation model. One model uses a universal stellar initial mass function (IMF), while the other assumes different IMFs for quiescent star formation and bursts. Particular consideration is given to how the assumptions required to estimate the stellar masses of observed galaxies (such as the choice of IMF, stellar population synthesis model, and dust extinction) influence the perceived dependence of galaxy clustering on stellar mass. Broad-band spectral energy distribution fitting is carried out to estimate stellar masses for the model galaxies in the same manner as in observational studies. We show clear differences between the clustering signals computed using the true and estimated model stellar masses. As such, we highlight the importance of applying our methodology to compare theoretical models to observations. We introduce an alternative scheme for the calculation of the merger time-scales for satellite galaxies in GALFORM, which takes into account the dark matter subhalo information from the underlying dark matter only simulation. This reduces the amplitude of small-scale clustering. The new merger scheme offers improved or similar agreement with observational clustering measurements, over the redshift range 0 < z < 0.7. We find reasonable agreement with clustering measurements from GAMA, but find larger discrepancies for some stellar mass ranges and separation scales with respect to measurements from SDSS and VIPERS, depending on the GALFORM model used.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Science > Physics, Department of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:10 Jul 2017 14:49

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