Galaxy Threshing and the Formation of Ultracompact Dwarf Galaxies

Kenji Bekki, Warrick J. Couch, Michael J. Drinkwater

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Recent spectroscopic and morphological observational studies of galaxies around NGC 1399 in the Fornax Cluster have discovered several ``ultracompact dwarf'' galaxies with intrinsic sizes of ~100 pc and absolute B-band magnitudes ranging from -13 to -11 mag. In order to elucidate the origin of these enigmatic objects, we perform numerical simulations on the dynamical evolution of nucleated dwarf galaxies orbiting NGC 1399 and suffering from its strong tidal gravitational field. Adopting a plausible scaling relation for dwarf galaxies, we find that the outer stellar components of a nucleated dwarf are totally removed. This is due to them being tidally stripped over the course of several passages past the central region of NGC 1399. The nucleus, however, manages to survive. We also find that the size and luminosity of the remnant are similar to those observed for ultracompact dwarf galaxies, if the simulated precursor nucleated dwarf has a mass of ~108 Msolar. These results suggest that ultracompact dwarf galaxies could have previously been more luminous dwarf spheroidal or elliptical galaxies with rather compact nuclei.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L105-L108
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2001

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