A. Pizzella

University of Padova, Padua, Veneto, Italy

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Publications (174)286.08 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Approximately 20 per cent of early-type galaxies host small nuclear stellar discs that are tens to a few hundred parsecs in size. Such discs are expected to be easily disrupted during major galactic encounters, hence their age serve to constrain their assembly history. We use VIsible MultiObject Spectrograph integral-field spectroscopic observations for the intermediate-mass E0 galaxy NGC 4458 and age-date its nuclear disc via high-resolution fitting of various model spectra. We find that the nuclear disc is at least 6 Gyr old. A clue to gain narrow limits to the stellar age is our knowledge of the nuclear disc contribution to the central surface brightness. The presence of an old nuclear disc, or the absence of disruptive encounters since z ∼ 0.6, for a small galaxy such as NGC 4458 which belongs to the Virgo cluster, may be consistent with a hierarchical picture for galaxy formation where the smallest galaxies assembles earlier and the crowded galactic environments reduce the incidence of galaxy mergers. On the other hand, NGC 4458 displays little or no bulk rotation except for a central kpc-scale kinematically decoupled core. Slow rotation and decoupled core are usually explained in terms of mergers. The presence and age of the nuclear disc constraint these mergers to have happened at high redshift.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2016 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: Small kinematically decoupled stellar discs with scalelengths of a few tens of parsec are known to reside in the centre of galaxies. Different mechanisms have been proposed to explain how they form, including gas dissipation and merging of globular clusters. Using archival Hubble Space Telescope imaging and ground-based integral-field spectroscopy, we investigated the structure and stellar populations of the nuclear stellar disc hosted in the interacting SB0 galaxy NGC 1023. The stars of the nuclear disc are remarkably younger and more metal rich with respect to the host bulge. These findings support a scenario in which the nuclear disc is the end result of star formation in metal enriched gas piled up in the galaxy centre. The gas can be of either internal or external origin, i.e. from either the main disc of NGC 1023 or the nearby satellite galaxy NGC 1023A. The dissipationless formation of the nuclear disc from already formed stars, through the migration and accretion of star clusters into the galactic centre, is rejected.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2015 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: We disentangle two counter-rotating stellar components in NGC 4191 and characterize their physical properties (kinematics, morphology, age, metallicity, and abundance ratio). We performed a spectroscopic decomposition on integral field data to separate the contribution of two stellar components to the observed galaxy spectrum across the field of view. We also performed a photometric decomposition, modelling the galaxy with a S\'ersic bulge and two exponential disks of different scale length, with the aim of associating these structural components with the kinematic components. We measured the equivalent width of the absorption line indices on the best fit that represent the kinematic components and compared our measurements to the predictions of stellar population models. We have evidence that the line-of-sight velocity distributions (LOSVDs) are consistent with the presence of two distinct kinematic components. The combined information of the intensity of the LOSVDs and photometry allows us to associate the S\'ersic bulge and the outer disk with the main kinematic component, and the inner disk with the secondary kinematic component. The two kinematic stellar components counter-rotate with respect to each other. The main component is the most luminous and massive, and it rotates slower than the secondary component, which rotates along the same direction as the ionized gas. We also found that the two kinematic components have the same solar metallicity and sub-solar abundance ratio, without the presence of significant radial gradients. On the other hand, their ages show strong negative gradients and the possible indication that the secondary component is the youngest. We interpret our results in light of recent cosmological simulations and suggest gas accretion along two filaments as the formation mechanism of the stellar counter-rotating components in NGC 4191 (Abridged).
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2015 · Astronomy and Astrophysics
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    ABSTRACT: We investigated the properties of the stellar populations in the discs of a sample of ten spiral galaxies. Our analysis focused on the galaxy region where the disc contributes more than 95 per cent of total surface brightness in order to minimise the contamination of the bulge and bar. The luminosity-weighted age and metallicity were obtained by fitting the galaxy spectra with a linear combination of stellar population synthesis models, while the total overabundance of {\alpha}-elements over iron was derived by measuring the line-strength indices. Most of the sample discs display a bimodal age distribution and they are characterised by a total [{\alpha}/Fe] enhancement ranging from solar and supersolar. We interpreted the age bimodality as due to the simultaneous presence of both a young (Age$\,\leq\,4$ Gyr) and an old (Age$\,>\,$4 Gyr) stellar population. The old stellar component usually dominates the disc surface brightness and its light contribution is almost constant within the observed radial range. For this reason, no age gradient is observed in half of the sample galaxies. The old component is slightly more metal poor than the young one. The metallicity gradient is negative and slightly positive in the old and young components, respectively. These results are in agreement with an inside-out scenario of disc formation and suggest a reduced impact of the radial migration on the stellar populations of the disc. The young component could be the result of a second burst of star formation in gas captured from the environment.
    Preview · Article · Jun 2015 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: Key information to understand the formation and evolution of disk galaxies are imprinted in the stellar populations of their bulges. This paper has the purpose to make available new measurements of the stellar population properties of the bulges of four spiral galaxies. Both the central values and radial profiles of the line strength of some of the most common Lick indices are measured along the major- and minor- axis of the bulge-dominated region of the sample galaxies. The corresponding age, metallicity, and {\alpha}/Fe ratio are derived by using the simple stellar population synthesis model predictions. The central values and the gradients of the stellar population properties of ESO-LV1890070, ESO-LV4460170, and ESO-LV 5140100 are consistent with previous findings for bulges of spiral galaxies. On the contrary, the bulge of ESO-LV 4500200 shows peculiar chemical properties possibly due to the presence of a central kinematically-decoupled component. The negative metallicity gradient found in our bulges sample indicates a relevant role for the dissipative collapse in bulge formation. However, the shallow gradients found for the age and {\alpha}/Fe ratio suggests that merging can not be completely ruled out for the sample bulges. This is confirmed by the properties of ESO-LV 4500200 which can hardly be explained without invoking the capture of external material.
    Preview · Article · Jan 2015 · Astronomische Nachrichten
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    ABSTRACT: Several scenarios have been proposed to account for the formation and evolution of galactic bulges and to explain the variety of their observed properties. Both the intrinsic shape and dynamical structure of bulges depend on the mechanisms and timescales of their formation. We are deriving the intrinsic axial ratios of the bulges of a sample of unbarred lenticular galaxies to look for a possible relationship with their known orbital structure. Preliminary results show that the orbits of stars of the triaxial bulge of NGC 4476 are more anisotropic than those in the axisymmetric bulge of NGC 4249 hinting at a different formation process.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2014 · Journal of Physics Conference Series
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    ABSTRACT: Cosmological surface brightness dimming of the form $(1+z)^{-4}$ affects all sources. The strong dependence of surface brightness dimming on redshift z suggests the presence of a selection bias when searching for high-redshift galaxies, i.e. we tend to detect only those galaxies with a high surface brightness (SB). However, unresolved knots of emission are not affected by SB dimming, thus providing a way to test the clumpiness of high-z galaxies. Our strategy relies on the comparison of the total flux detected for the same source in surveys characterized by different depth. For all galaxies, deeper images permit the better investigation of low-SB features. Cosmological SB dimming makes these low-SB features hard to detect when going to higher and higher redshifts. We used the GOODS and HUDF Hubble Space Telescope legacy datasets to study the effect of SB dimming on low-SB features of high-redshift galaxies and compare it to the prediction for smooth sources. We selected a sample of Lyman-break galaxies at z~4 (i.e. B-band dropouts) detected in all of the datasets and found no significant trend when comparing the total magnitudes measured from images with different depth. Through Monte Carlo simulations we derived the expected trend for galaxies with different SB profiles. The comparison to the datahints at a compact distribution for most of the rest-frame ultraviolet light emitted from high-z galaxies.
    Preview · Article · Oct 2014 · The Astrophysical Journal
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    ABSTRACT: We present a spectral decomposition technique that separates the contribution of different kinematic components in galaxies from the observed spectrum. This allows to study the kinematics and properties of the stellar populations of the individual components (e.g., bulge, disk, counter-rotating cores, orthogonal structures). Here, we discuss the results of this technique for galaxies that host counter-rotating stellar disks of comparable size. In all the studied cases, the counter-rotating stellar disk is the less massive, the youngest and has different chemical content (metallicity and alpha-elements abundance ratio) than the main galaxy disk. Further applications of the spectral decomposition technique are also discussed.
    Preview · Article · Oct 2014 · Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union
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    ABSTRACT: The Sa spiral NGC 4138 is known to host two counter-rotating stellar disks, with the ionized gas co-rotating with one of them. We measured the kinematics and properties of the two counter-rotating stellar populations to constrain their formation scenario. A spectroscopic decomposition of the observed major-axis spectrum was performed to disentangle the relative contribution of the two counter-rotating stellar and one ionized-gas components. The line-strength indices of the two counter-rotating stellar components were measured and modeled with single stellar population models that account for the alpha/Fe overabundance. The counter-rotating stellar population is younger, marginally more metal poor, and more alpha-enhanced than the main stellar component. The younger stellar component is also associated with a star-forming ring. The different properties of the counter-rotating stellar components of NGC~4138 rule out the idea that they formed due to bar dissolution. Our findings support the results of numerical simulations in which the counter-rotating component assembled from gas accreted on retrograde orbits from the environment or from the retrograde merging with a gas-rich dwarf galaxy.
    Preview · Article · Sep 2014 · Astronomy and Astrophysics
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    ABSTRACT: The nearby S0 galaxy IC 5181 is studied to address the origin of the ionized gas component that orbits the galaxy on polar orbit. We perform detailed photometric and spectroscopic observations measuring the surface brightness distribution of the stars (I-band), ionized gas of IC 5181 (H-alpha narrow band), the ionized-gas and stellar kinematics along both the major and minor axis, and the corresponding line strengths of the Lick indices. We conclude that the galaxy hosts a geometrically and kinematically decoupled component of ionized gas. It is elongated along the galaxy minor axis and in orthogonal rotation with respect to the galaxy disk. The result is suggesting that the gas component is not related to the stars having an external origin. The gas was accreted by IC 5181 on polar orbits from the surrounding environment.
    Preview · Article · Apr 2014
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    ABSTRACT: We present a spectral decomposition technique and its applications to a sample of galaxies hosting large-scale counter-rotating stellar disks. Our spectral decomposition technique allows to separate and measure the kinematics and the properties of the stellar populations of both the two counter-rotating disks in the observed galaxies at the same time. Our results provide new insights on the epoch and mechanism of formation of these galaxies.
    Preview · Article · Feb 2014
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    ABSTRACT: Galaxies accrete material from the environment through acquisition and merging events. We study the nearby S0 galaxy IC 5181 to address the origin of the ionized-gas component orbiting the galaxy on polar orbit ionized gas of IC 5181 from broad and narrow-band imaging. We measure the ionized-gas and stellar kinematics and the line strengths of the Lick indices of the stellar component along both the major and minor axis. The age, metallicity, and [alpha/Fe] enhancement of the stellar populations are derived using single stellar population models with variable element abundance ratios. The ionized-gas metallicity is obtained from the equivalent width of the emission lines. IC 5181 is a morphologically undisturbed S0 galaxy with a classical bulge made by old stars with super solar metallicity and overabundance. Stellar age and metallicity decrease in the disk region. The galaxy hosts a geometrically and kinematically decoupled component of ionized gas. It is elongated along the galaxy minor axis and in orthogonal rotation with respect to the galaxy disk. We interpret the kinematical decoupling as suggestive of a component of gas, which is not related to the stars and having an external origin. It was accreted by IC 5181 on polar orbits from the surrounding environment.
    Preview · Article · Sep 2013 · Astronomy and Astrophysics
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    ABSTRACT: The nuclei of galaxies often host small stellar discs with scalelengths of a few tens of parsecs and luminosities up to 107 L⊙. To investigate the formation and properties of nuclear stellar discs (NSDs), we look for their presence in a set of N-body simulations studying the dissipationless merging of multiple star clusters in galactic nuclei. A few tens of star clusters with sizes and masses comparable to those of globular clusters observed in the Milky Way are accreted on to a pre-existing nuclear stellar component: either a massive super star cluster or a rapidly rotating, compact disc with a scalelength of a few parsecs, mimicking the variety of observed nuclear structures. Images and kinematic maps of the simulation time-steps are then built and analysed as if they were real and at the distance of the Virgo cluster. We use the Scorza–Bender method to search for the presence of disc structures via photometric decomposition. In one case, the merger remnant has all the observed photometric and kinematic properties of NSDs observed in real galaxies. This shows that current observations are consistent with most of the NSD mass being assembled from the migration and accretion of star clusters into the galactic centre. In the other simulation instead, we detect an elongated structure from the unsharp masked image, that does not develop the photometric or kinematic signature of an NSD. Thus, in the context of searches for a disc structure, the Scorza–Bender method is a robust and necessary tool.
    Full-text · Article · May 2013 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: We present a new technique to quantify the light contribution coming from the faint high-redshift (z ∼ 6) galaxies below the detection threshold of imaging data, set conventionally at S/N = 4.5. We illustrate the technique with an application to Hubble Space Telescope Advanced Camera for Surveys images in the F775W and F850LP filters of the Ultra Deep Field parallel field NICP12. The aim of this analysis is to extend by a few magnitudes the faint end of the luminosity function at z ∼ 6. After masking all the detected sources in the field, we apply a fast Fourier transform to obtain the spatial power spectrum of the background signal. The power spectrum permits us to separate the background noise signal, the residuals due to the data reduction of the wide field and the overall signal produced by faint galaxies. The ratio of the signal in the i775 and z850 bands is used to estimate the contribution of the faint i-dropout objects. We rely on extensive Monte Carlo simulations to characterize various sources of uncertainty and quantify the number of faint i-dropout galaxies in the field. The analysis allows us to put constraints on the luminosity function at z ∼ 6 down to z850 = 30 mag, 2.5 mag fainter than with standard techniques on the same data. The data are consistent with a faint-end slope of the luminosity function of α = −1.9. Assuming a specific set of values for the clumping factor, escape fraction and spectral energy distribution, we find that the z ∼ 6 undetected galaxies down to z850 = 30 mag could have driven cosmic reionization.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2013 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: All the sample galaxies were selected to be spiral galaxies with a bulge and a LSB disc. Six of these were taken from Paper I (Cat. J/MNRAS/387/1099), and their broad-band images and long-slit spectra were already available to us. Therefore, we refer to Paper I (Cat. J/MNRAS/387/1099) for a detailed description of the photometric and kinematic data that we use in this paper to measure the line-strength indices of these galaxies. In addition, two more late-type spirals were taken from the catalogue of candidate LSB galaxies by Impey et al. (1996, Cat. J/ApJS/105/209). The photometric and spectroscopic observations of PGC 26148 and PGC 37759 were carried out with the Very Large Telescope (VLT) of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) at the Paranal Observatory on 2006 March 23-25 and 2008 February 17-18. (3 data files).
    No preview · Article · Apr 2013
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    ABSTRACT: The near-infrared (NIR) wavelength range offers some unique spectral features, and it is less prone to the extinction than the optical one. Recently, the first flux calibrated NIR library of cool stars from the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) have become available, and it has not been fully exploited yet. We want to develop spectroscopic diagnostics for stellar physical parameters based on features in the wavelength range 1-5um. In this work we test the technique in the I and K bands. The study of the Y, J, H, and L bands will be presented in the following paper. An objective method for semi-empirical definition of spectral features sensitive to various physical parameters is applied to the spectra. It is based on sensitivity map - i.e., derivative of the flux in the spectra with respect to the stellar parameters at a fixed wavelength. New optimized indices are defined and their equivalent widths (EWs) are measured. (6 data files).
    No preview · Article · Apr 2013
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    ABSTRACT: Spectroscopic VIMOS/IFU observations are presented for three galaxies known to host two stellar counter-rotating discs of comparable sizes. For the first time both the kinematics and stellar population properties of the two counter-rotating discs in the observed galaxies were separated and measured. The secondary, less massive, stellar component rotates in the same direction as the ionised gas and is on average younger and less metal-rich than the main galaxy disc. These results support the scenario of gas accretion followed by star formation as the origin for large counter-rotating stellar discs in galaxies, and set an upper limit of 44% to those formed by binary galaxy mergers.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2013
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    ABSTRACT: The near-infrared (NIR) wavelength range offers some unique spectral features, and it is less prone to the extinction than the optical one. Recently, the first flux calibrated NIR library of cool stars from the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) have become available, and it has not been fully exploited yet. We want to develop spectroscopic diagnostics for stellar physical parameters based on features in the wavelength range 1-5 micron. In this work we test the technique in the I and K bands. The study of the Y, J, H, and L bands will be presented in the following paper. An objective method for semi-empirical definition of spectral features sensitive to various physical parameters is applied to the spectra. It is based on sensitivity map--i.e., derivative of the flux in the spectra with respect to the stellar parameters at a fixed wavelength. New optimized indices are defined and their equivalent widths (EWs) are measured. A number of sensitive features to the effective temperature and surface gravity are re-identified or newly identified clearly showing the reliability of the sensitivity map analysis. The sensitivity map allows to identify the best bandpass limits for the line and nearby continuum. It reliably predicts the trends of spectral features with respect to a given physical parameter but not their absolute strengths. Line blends are easy to recognize when blended features have different behavior with respect to some physical stellar parameter. The use of sensitivity map is therefore complementary to the use of indices. We give the EWs of the new indices measured for the IRTF star sample. This new and homogeneous set of EWs will be useful for stellar population synthesis models and can be used to get element-by-element abundances for unresolved stellar population studies in galaxies.
    Preview · Article · Nov 2012 · Astronomy and Astrophysics
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    ABSTRACT: We present the results of integral-field spectroscopic observations of the two disk galaxies NGC 3593 and NGC 4550 obtained with VIMOS/VLT. Both galaxies are known to host 2 counter-rotating stellar disks, with the ionized gas co-rotating with one of them. We measured in each galaxy the ionized gas kinematics and metallicity, and the surface brightness, kinematics, mass surface density, and the stellar populations of the 2 stellar components to constrain the formation scenario of these peculiar galaxies. We applied a novel spectroscopic decomposition technique to both galaxies, to separate the relative contribution of the 2 counter-rotating stellar and one ionized-gas components to the observed spectrum. We measured the kinematics and the line strengths of the Lick indices of the 2 counter-rotating stellar components. We modeled the data of each stellar component with single stellar population models that account for the alpha/Fe overabundance. In both galaxies we successfully separated the main from the secondary stellar component that is less massive and rotates in the same direction of the ionized-gas component. The 2 stellar components have exponential surface-brightness profiles. In both galaxies, the two counter-rotating stellar components have different stellar populations: the secondary stellar disk is younger, more metal poor, and more alpha-enhanced than the main galaxy stellar disk. Our findings rule out an internal origin of the secondary stellar component and favor a scenario where it formed from gas accreted on retrograde orbits from the environment fueling an in situ outside-in rapid star formation. The event occurred ~ 2 Gyr ago in NGC 3593, and ~ 7 Gyr ago in NGC 4550. The binary galaxy merger scenario cannot be ruled out, and a larger sample is required to statistically determine which is the most efficient mechanism to build counter-rotating stellar disks (abridged).
    Preview · Article · Oct 2012 · Astronomy and Astrophysics
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    ABSTRACT: CBET 3226 available at Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams.
    No preview · Article · Sep 2012

Publication Stats

1k Citations
286.08 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 1995-2015
    • University of Padova
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy "Galileo Galilei"
      Padua, Veneto, Italy
  • 2014
    • Space Telescope Science Institute
      Baltimore, Maryland, United States
  • 2013
    • The Astronomical Observatory of Brera
      Merate, Lombardy, Italy
  • 2007
    • University of Pennsylvania
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
  • 2005
    • University of Oxford
      • Department of Physics
      Oxford, England, United Kingdom
  • 1998-2005
    • University of Santiago, Chile
      CiudadSantiago, Santiago Metropolitan, Chile
  • 2000
    • The University of Arizona
      Tucson, Arizona, United States
    • Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias
      San Cristóbal de La Laguna, Canary Islands, Spain
  • 1999
    • Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati di Trieste
      Trst, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy
  • 1996
    • Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa
      Pisa, Tuscany, Italy