Dwarf-Dwarf Interactions Can Both Trigger and Quench Star Formation

Erin Kado-Fong, Azia Robinson, Kristina Nyland, Jenny E. Greene, Katherine A. Suess, Sabrina Stierwalt, Rachael Beaton

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It is exceedingly rare to find quiescent low-mass galaxies in the field at low redshift. UGC 5205 is an example of such a quenched field dwarf (M ∼ 3 × 108 M ). Despite a wealth of cold gas (M HI ∼ 3.5 × 108 M ) and UV emission that indicates significant star formation in the past few hundred megayears, there is no detection of Hα emission—star formation in the last ∼10 Myr—across the face of the galaxy. Meanwhile, the near equal-mass companion of UGC 5205, PGC 027864, is starbursting (which has an Hα equivalent width > 1000 Å). In this work, we present new Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array 21 cm line observations of UGC 5205, showing that the lack of star formation is caused by an absence of H i in the main body of the galaxy. The H i of UGC 5205 is highly disturbed; the bulk of the H i resides in several-kiloparsec-long tails, while the H i of PGC 027864 is dominated by ordered rotation. We model the stellar populations of UGC 5205 to show that, as indicated by the UV and Hα emission, the galaxy underwent a coordinated quenching event ∼100-300 Myr ago. The asymmetry of outcomes for UGC 5205 and PGC 027864 demonstrate that major mergers can both quench and trigger star formation in dwarfs. However, because the gas remains bound to the system, we suggest that such mergers only temporarily quench star formation. We estimate a total quenched time of ∼560 Myr for UGC 5205, consistent with established upper limits on the quenched fraction of a few percent for dwarfs in the field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number37
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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