The origin of the young stars in the nucleus of M31

Philip Chang, Ruth Murray-Clay, Eugene Chiang, Eliot Quataert

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26 Scopus citations


The triple nucleus of M31 consists of a population of old red stars in an eccentric disk (P1 and P2) and another population of younger A stars in a circular disk (P3) around M31's central supermassive black hole (SMBH). We argue that P1 and P2 determine the maximal radial extent of the younger A star population and provide the gas that fueled the starburst that generated P3. The eccentric stellar disk creates an m = 1 nonaxisymmetric perturbation to the potential. This perturbed potential drives gas into the inner parsec around the SMBH, if the pattern speed of the eccentric stellar disk is Ωp ≲ 3-10 km s-1 pc-1. We show that stellar mass loss from P1 and P2 is sufficient to create a gravitationally unstable gaseous disk of ∼105 M every 0.1-1 Gyr, consistent with the 200 Myr age of P3. Similar processes may act in other systems to produce very compact nuclear starbursts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)236-244
Number of pages9
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Galaxies: individual (M31)
  • Galaxies: nuclei
  • Galaxies: starburst


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