Facundo A. Gómez

Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, United States

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Publications (14)46.17 Total impact

  • Computers & Graphics 01/2014; · 0.79 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: [Abridged] We present an application of statistical tools to characterize the relationship between input parameters and observational predictions of semi-analytic models of galaxy formation coupled to cosmological $N$-body simulations. We use statistical emulators to efficiently explore the input parameter space of our model, ChemTreeN. We show how a sensitivity analysis can be performed on these model emulators to characterize and quantify the relationship between model input parameters and predicted observable properties. The result of this analysis provides the user with information about which parameters are most important and likely to affect the prediction of a given observable. It can also be used to simplify models by identifying input parameters that have no effect on the outputs of interest. Conversely, it allow us to identify what model parameters can be most efficiently constrained by the given observational data set. We have applied this technique to real observational data sets associated to the Milky Way, such as its luminosity function of satellite galaxies. A statistical comparison of model outputs and real observables is used to obtain a "best-fitting" parameter set. We consider different Milky Way-like dark matter halos to account for the dependence of the best-fitting parameters selection process on underlying the merger history of the models. For all formation histories considered, running ChemTreeN with best-fitting parameters produced luminosity functions that tightly fit their observed counterpart. However, only one models was able to reproduce the observed stellar halo mass within 40 kpc of the Galactic center. On the basis of this analysis it is possible to disregard certain models, and their corresponding merger histories, as good representations of the underlying merger history of the Milky Way.
    11/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: We use the very high resolution, fully cosmological simulations from the Aquarius project, coupled to a semi-analytical model of galaxy formation, to study the phase-space distribution of halo stars in "solar neighbourhood"-like volumes. We find that this distribution is very rich in substructure in the form of stellar streams for all five stellar haloes we have analysed. These streams can be easily identified in velocity space, as well as in spaces of pseudo-conserved quantities such as E vs. Lz. In our best-resolved local volumes, the number of identified streams ranges from ~ 300 to 600, in very good agreement with previous analytical predictions, even in the presence of chaotic mixing. The fraction of particles linked to (massive) stellar streams in these volumes can be as large as 84%. The number of identified streams is found to decrease as a power-law with galactocentric radius. We show that the strongest limitation to the quantification of substructure in our poorest-resolved local volumes is particle resolution rather than strong diffusion due to chaotic mixing.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 06/2013; · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We use the semi-analytic model ChemTreeN, coupled to cosmological N-body simulations, to explore how different galaxy formation histories can affect observational properties of Milky Way like galaxies' stellar halos and their satellite populations. Gaussian processes are used to generate model emulators that allow one to statistically estimate a desired set of model outputs at any location of a p-dimensional input parameter space. This enables one to explore the full input parameter space orders of magnitude faster than could be done otherwise. Using mock observational data sets generated by ChemTreeN itself, we show that it is possible to successfully recover the input parameter vectors used to generate the mock observables if the merger history of the host halo is known. However, our results indicate that for a given observational data set, the determination of 'best-fit' parameters is highly susceptible to the particular merger history of the host. Very different halo merger histories can reproduce the same observational data set, if the 'best-fit' parameters are allowed to vary from history to history. Thus, attempts to characterize the formation history of the Milky Way using these kind of techniques must be performed statistically, analyzing large samples of high-resolution N-body simulations.
    The Astrophysical Journal 12/2012; 760(2). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We explore two consequences of hierarchical structure formation on galaxy evolution: the effect that a particular Milky Way-sized galaxy's merger history has on the properties of its stellar halo and dwarf galaxy population, and the signatures of minor mergers in the thick disk of the Milky Way. In the first case, we use semi-analytical models (which include phenomenological descriptions of the evolution of stellar populations coupled to N-body produced merger trees) to demonstrate that the formation history of galaxies of approximately equal mass can significantly affect bulk properties of the dwarf galaxy population, but that the galaxy's stellar halo metallicity is much more robust. In the second project, we show that a carefully-chosen sample of Solar neighborhood thick disk stars exhibit distributions of energies that are consistent with the predictions of a minor-merger event that corresponds to recent models of Sagittarius' interactions with the disk of the Milky Way.
    08/2012;
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    ABSTRACT: Recently, Widrow and collaborators announced the discovery of vertical density waves in the Milky Way disk. Here we investigate a scenario where these waves were induced by the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy as it plunged through the Galaxy. Using numerical simulations, we find that the Sagittarius impact produces North-South asymmetries and vertical wave-like behavior that qualitatively agrees with what is observed. The extent to which vertical modes can radially penetrate into the disc, as well as their amplitudes, depend on the mass of the perturbing satellite. We show that the mean height of the disc is expected to vary more rapidly in the radial than in the azimuthal direction. If the observed vertical density asymmetry is indeed caused by vertical oscillations, we predict radial and azimuthal variations of the mean vertical velocity, correlating with the spatial structure. These variations can have amplitudes as large as 8 km/s.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 07/2012; 429(1). · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: It is now known that minor mergers are capable of creating structure in the phase-space distribution of their host galaxy's disc. In order to search for such imprints in the Milky Way, we analyse the SEGUE F/G-dwarf and the Schuster et al. (2006) stellar samples. We find similar features in these two completely independent stellar samples, consistent with the predictions of a Milky Way minor-merger event. We next apply the same analyses to high-resolution, idealised N-body simulations of the interaction between the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy and the Milky Way. The energy distributions of stellar particle samples in small spatial regions in the host disc reveal strong variations of structure with position. We find good matches to the observations for models with a mass of Sagittarius' dark matter halo progenitor $\lessapprox 10^{11}$ M$_{\odot}$. Thus, we show that this kind of analysis could be used to provide unprecedentedly tight constraints on Sagittarius' orbital parameters, as well as place a lower limit on its mass.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 01/2012; 423(4). · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: By means of N-body simulations we study the response of a galactic disc to a minor merger event. We find that non-self-gravitating, spiral-like features are induced in the thick disc. As we have shown in a previous work, this "ringing" also leaves an imprint in velocity space (the u-v plane) in small spatial regions, such as the solar neighbourhood. As the disc relaxes after the event, clumps in the u-v plane get closer with time, allowing us to estimate the time of impact. In addition to confirming the possibility of this diagnostic, here we show that in a more realistic scenario, the in-fall trajectory of the perturber gives rise to an azimuthal dependence of the structure in phase-space. We also find that the space defined by the energy and angular momentum of stars is a better choice than velocity space, as clumps remain visible even in large local volumes. This makes their observational detection much easier since one need not be restricted to a small spatial volume. We show that information about the time of impact, the mass of the perturber, and its trajectory is stored in the kinematics of disc stars.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 05/2011; 419(3). · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We model the formation of the Galactic stellar halo via the accretion of satellite galaxies onto a time-dependent semi-cosmological galactic potential. Our goal is to characterize the substructure left by these accretion events in a close manner to what may be possible with the {\it Gaia} mission. We have created a synthetic {\it Gaia} Solar Neighbourhood catalogue by convolving the 6D phase-space coordinates of stellar particles from our disrupted satellites with the latest estimates of the {\it Gaia} measurement errors, and included realistic background contamination due to the Galactic disc(s) and bulge. We find that, even after accounting for the expected observational errors, the resulting phase-space is full of substructure. We are able to successfully isolate roughly 50% of the different satellites contributing to the `Solar Neighbourhood' by applying the Mean-Shift clustering algorithm in energy-angular momentum space. Furthermore, a Fourier analysis of the space of orbital frequencies allows us to obtain accurate estimates of time since accretion for approximately 30% of the recovered satellites. Comment: 13 pages, 11 figures, submitted to MNRAS
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 04/2010; · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We study the orbital properties of stars in four (published) simulations of thick discs formed by (i) accretion from disrupted satellites, (ii) heating of a pre-existing thin disc by a minor merger, (iii) radial migration and (iv) gas-rich mergers. We find that the distribution of orbital eccentricities is predicted to be different for each model: a prominent peak at low eccentricity is expected for the heating, migration and gas-rich merging scenarios, while the eccentricity distribution is broader and shifted towards higher values for the accretion model. These differences can be traced back to whether the bulk of the stars in each case is formed in situ or is accreted, and is robust to the peculiarities of each model. A simple test based on the eccentricity distribution of nearby thick-disc stars may thus help elucidate the dominant formation mechanism of the Galactic thick disc.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters 11/2009; 400(1):L61 - L65. · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We study the orbital properties of stars in four (published) simulations of thick disks formed by: i) accretion from disrupted satellites, ii) heating of a pre-existing thin disk by a minor merger, iii) radial migration and iv) gas rich mergers. We find that the distribution of orbital eccentricities are predicted to be different for each model: a prominent peak at low eccentricity is expected for the heating, migration and gas-rich merging scenarios, while the eccentricity distribution is broader and shifted towards higher values for the accretion model. These differences can be traced back to whether the bulk of the stars in each case is formed 'in-situ' or is 'accreted', and are robust to the peculiarities of each model. A simple test based on the eccentricity distribution of nearby thick disk stars may thus help elucidate the dominant formation mechanism of the Galactic thick disk. Comment: 5 pages, 3 figures, accepted to MNRAS Letters. Typo corrected
    09/2009;
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    Facundo A. Gomez, Amina Helmi
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    ABSTRACT: We study the evolution of satellite debris to establish the most suitable space to identify past merger events. We confirm that the space of orbital frequencies is very promising in this respect. In frequency space individual streams can be easily identified, and their separation provides a direct measurement of the time of accretion. We are able to show for a few idealised gravitational potentials that these features are preserved also in systems that have evolved strongly in time. Furthermore, this time evolution is imprinted in the distribution of streams in frequency space. We have also tested the power of the orbital frequencies in a fully self-consistent (live) N-body simulation of the merger between a disk galaxy and a massive satellite. Even in this case streams can be easily identified and the time of accretion of the satellite can be accurately estimated. Comment: 17 pages. MNRAS accepted. Revised to reflect final version
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 04/2009; · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    Amina Helmi, Facundo Gomez
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    ABSTRACT: We study the phase-space behaviour of nearby trajectories in integrable potentials. We show that the separation of nearby orbits initially diverges very fast, mimicking a nearly exponential behaviour, while at late times it grows linearly. This initial exponential phase, known as Miller's instability, is commonly found in N-body simulations, and has been attributed to short-term (microscopic) N-body chaos. However we show here analytically that the initial divergence is simply due to the shape of an orbit in phase-space. This result confirms previous suspicions that this transient phenomenon is not related to an instability in the sense of non-integrable behaviour in the dynamics of N-body systems.
    11/2007;
  • Facundo A. Gómez, Amina Helmi
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    ABSTRACT: We study the evolution of satellite debris to establish the most suitable space to identify past merger events. We confirm that the space of orbital frequencies is very promising in this respect. In frequency space individual streams can be easily identified, and their separation provides a direct measurement of the time of accretion. We are able to show for a few idealised gravitational potentials that these features are preserved also in systems that have evolved strongly in time. Furthermore, this time evolution is imprinted in the distribution of streams in frequency space. We have also tested the power of the orbital frequencies in a fully self-consistent (live) N-body simulation of the merger between a disk galaxy and a massive satellite. Even in this case streams can be easily identified and the time of accretion of the satellite can be accurately estimated.