Interacting Galaxies in the A901/902 Supercluster with STAGES

Heiderman, A. L.
Jogee, S.
Marinova, I.
van Kampen, E.
Barden, M.
Peng, C. Y.
Heymans, C.
Gray, M. E.
Bell, E. F.
Bacon, D.
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We present a study of galaxy mergers and the influence of environment in the Abell 901/902 supercluster at z~0.165. We use HST ACS F606W data from the STAGES survey, COMBO-17, Spitzer 24um, and XMM-Newton X-ray data. Our analysis utilizes both a visual classification system, and quantitative CAS parameters to identify systems which show evidence of a recent or ongoing merger of mass ratio >1/10. Our results are: (1) After visual classification and minimizing the contamination from false projection pairs, we find that the merger fraction f_merge is 0.023+/-0.007. The estimated fractions of likely major mergers, likely minor mergers, and ambiguous cases are 0.01+/-0.004, 0.006+/-0.003, and 0.007+/-0.003, respectively. (2) The mergers lie outside the cluster core of radius R < 0.25 Mpc: the lack of mergers in the core is likely due to the large galaxy velocity dispersion in the core. Mergers populate the region (0.25 Mpc < R <= 2 Mpc) between the core and outskirt. In this region, the estimated frequency of mergers is similar to those seen at typical group overdensities. This suggests ongoing growth of the clusters via accretion of group and field galaxies. (3) We compare our observed merger fraction with those reported in other clusters and groups out to z~0.4. Existing data points on the merger fraction for L<= L* galaxies in clusters allow for a range of evolutionary scenarios. (4) The fraction of mergers, which lie on the blue cloud is 80%+/-18% versus 34%+/-7% for non-interacting galaxies, implying that interacting galaxies are preferentially blue. (5) The average SFR, based on UV or UV+IR data, is enhanced by a factor of ~1.5 to 2 in mergers compared to non-interacting galaxies. However, mergers in the clusters contribute only a small fraction (between 10% and 15%) of the total SFR density.(Abridged)
Comment: Accepted for publication in ApJ. 34 pages, 16 figures. Version with full resolution figures available at: ; updated abridged abstract
Astrophysics - Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics