Nuclear stellar discs (NSDs) can help to constrain the assembly history of their host galaxies, as long as we can assume them to be fragile structures that are disrupted during merger events. In this work we investigate the fragility of NSDs by means of N-body simulations reproducing the last phases of a galaxy encounter, when the nuclear regions of the two galaxies merge. For this, we exposed an NSD set in the gravitational potential of the bulge and supermassive black hole of a primary galaxy to the impact of the supermassive black hole from a secondary galaxy. We explored merger events of different mass ratios, from major mergers with a 1:1 mass ratio to intermediate and minor interactions with 1:5 and 1:10 ratios, while considering various impact geometries. We analyse the end results of such mergers from different viewing angles and look for possible photometric and kinematic signatures of the presence of a disc in the remnant surface density and velocity maps, while adopting detection limits from real observations. Our simulations show that indeed NSDs are fragile against major mergers, which leave little trace of NSDs both in images and velocity maps, while signatures of a disc can be found in the majority of the intermediate to minor-merger remnants and in particular when looking at their kinematics. These results show that NSDs could allow us to distinguish between these two modes of galaxy assembly, which may indeed pertain to different kinds of galaxies or galactic environments.
- galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD, galaxies: evolution, galaxies: interactions, galaxies: kinematics and dynamics, galaxies: nuclei