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Overview: Low-z Observations: Of Interacting and Merging Galaxies

  • Francois Schweizer (a1)

Abstract

Gravitational interactions and mergers affect the morphologies and dynamics of galaxies from our Local Group to the limits of the observable universe. Observations of interacting galaxies at low redshifts (z ≲ 0.2) yield detailed information about many of the processes at work. I briefly review these processes and the growing evidence that mergers play a major role in the delayed formation of elliptical and early-type disk galaxies both in the field and in clusters. Low-z observations clearly contradict the notion of a single epoch of E formation at z ≳ 2; instead, E and S0 galaxies continue forming to the present. The different rates of E and S0 formation inferred from observations of distant and nearby clusters may partially reflect the dependence of dynamical friction on mass: Major, E-forming mergers may tend to occur earlier than minor, S0-forming mergers because the dynamical friction is strongest for equal-mass galaxies.

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