Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 September 2013
Self-gravitating systems evolve toward the most tightly bound configuration that is reachable via the evolution processes that are available to them. They do this by spreading – the inner parts shrink while the outer parts expand – provided that some physical process efficiently transports energy or angular momentum outward. The reason is that self-gravitating systems have negative specific heats. As a result, the evolution of stars, star clusters, protostellar and protoplanetary disks, black hole accretion disks and galaxy disks are fundamentally similar. How evolution proceeds then depends on the evolution processes that are available to each kind of self-gravitating system. These processes and their consequences for galaxy disks are the subjects of my lectures and of this Canary Islands Winter School.
I begin with a review of the formation, growth and death of bars. Then I review the slow (‘secular’) rearrangement of energy, angular momentum, and mass that results from interactions between stars or gas clouds and collective phenomena such as bars, oval disks, spiral structure and triaxial dark haloes. The ‘existence-proof’ phase of this work is largely over: we have a good heuristic understanding of how nonaxisymmetric structures rearrange disk gas into outer rings, inner rings and stuff dumped onto the centre. The results of simulations correspond closely to the morphology of barred and oval galaxies. Gas that is transported to small radii reaches high densities. Observations confirm that many barred and oval galaxies have dense central concentrations of gas and star formation.