CALIFA reveals prolate rotation in massive early-Type galaxies: A polar galaxy merger origin?

A. Tsatsi, M. Lyubenova, G. Van De Ven, J. Chang, J. A.L. Aguerri, J. Falcón-Barroso, A. V. Macciò

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present new evidence for eight early-Type galaxies (ETGs) from the CALIFA Survey that show clear rotation around their major photometric axis ("prolate rotation"). These are LSBCF560-04, NGC 0647, NGC 0810, NGC 2484, NGC 4874, NGC 5216, NGC 6173, and NGC 6338. Including NGC 5485, a known case of an ETG with stellar prolate rotation, as well as UGC 10695, a further candidate for prolate rotation, we report ten CALIFA galaxies in total that show evidence for such a feature in their stellar kinematics. Prolate rotators correspond to ~9% of the volume-corrected sample of CALIFA ETGs, a fraction much higher than previously reported. We find that prolate rotation is more common (~27%) among the most massive ETGs (M2 × 1011M). We investigated the implications of these findings by studying N-body merger simulations, and we show that a prolate ETG with rotation around its major axis could be the result of a major polar merger, with the amplitude of prolate rotation depending on the initial bulge-To-Total stellar mass ratio of its progenitor galaxies. Additionally, we find that prolate ETGs resulting from this formation scenario show a correlation between their stellar line-of-sight velocity and higher order moment h3, opposite to typical oblate ETGs, as well as a double peak of their stellar velocity dispersion along their minor axis. Finally, we investigated the origin of prolate rotation in polar galaxy merger remnants. Our findings suggest that prolate rotation in massive ETGs might be more common than previously expected, and can help toward a better understanding of their dynamical structure and formation origin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA62
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017


  • Galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD
  • Galaxies: formation
  • Galaxies: kinematics and dynamics
  • Galaxies: stellar content
  • Galaxies: structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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