The Effect of Galaxy Interactions on Molecular Gas Properties

Hsi-An Pan, Lihwai Lin, Bau-Ching Hsieh, Ting Xiao, Yang Gao, Sara L. Ellison, Jillian M. Scudder, Jorge Barrera-Ballesteros, Fangting Yuan, Amélie Saintonge, Christine D. Wilson, Ho Seong Hwang, Ilse De Looze, Yu Gao, Luis C. Ho, Elias Brinks, Angus Mok, Toby Brown, Timothy A. Davis, Thomas G. WilliamsAeree Chung, Harriet Parsons, Martin Bureau, Mark T. Sargent, Eun Jung Chung, Eunbin Kim, Tie Liu, Michał J. Michałowski, Tomoka Tosaki

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Galaxy interactions are often accompanied by an enhanced star formation rate (SFR). Since molecular gas is essential for star formation, it is vital to establish whether and by how much galaxy interactions affect the molecular gas properties. We investigate the effect of interactions on global molecular gas properties by studying a sample of 58 galaxies in pairs and 154 control galaxies. Molecular gas properties are determined from observations with the JCMT, PMO, and CSO telescopes and supplemented with data from the xCOLD GASS and JINGLE surveys at 12CO(1-0) and 12CO(2-1). The SFR, gas mass (), and gas fraction (f gas) are all enhanced in galaxies in pairs by ∼2.5 times compared to the controls matched in redshift, mass, and effective radius, while the enhancement of star formation efficiency (SFE ≡SFR/) is less than a factor of 2. We also find that the enhancements in SFR, and f gas, increase with decreasing pair separation and are larger in systems with smaller stellar mass ratio. Conversely, the SFE is only enhanced in close pairs (separation <20 kpc) and equal-mass systems; therefore, most galaxies in pairs lie in the same parameter space on the SFR- plane as controls. This is the first time that the dependence of molecular gas properties on merger configurations is probed statistically with a relatively large sample and a carefully selected control sample for individual galaxies. We conclude that galaxy interactions do modify the molecular gas properties, although the strength of the effect is dependent on merger configuration.

Original languageEnglish
Article number132
Pages (from-to)20
Number of pages1
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2018


  • galaxies: interactions
  • galaxies: ISM
  • galaxies: star formation
  • ISM: molecules


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