Skip to Main Content

Colloquium: Dr. Stacy McGaugh, Case Western Reserve Univ

Wednesday, October 4, 2017
3:30 PM - 4:30 PM
Physics : 401
TITLE:One Law To Rule Them All: The Radial Acceleration Relation of Galaxies

ABSTRACT: We study the link between baryons and dark matter in 240 galaxies with spatially resolved kinematic data. Our sample spans 9 dex in stellar mass and includes all morphological types. We consider (i) 153 late-type galaxies (LTGs; spirals and irregulars) with gas rotation curves from the SPARC database; (ii) 25 early-type galaxies (ETGs; ellipticals and lenticulars) with stellar and HI data from ATLAS3D or X-ray data from Chandra; and (iii) 62 dwarf spheroidals (dSphs) with individual-star spectroscopy. We find that LTGs, ETGs, and "classical" dSphs follow the same radial acceleration relation: the observed acceleration (gobs) correlates with that expected from the distribution of baryons (gbar) over 4 dex. The relation coincides with the 1:1 line (no dark matter) at high accelerations but systematically deviates from unity below a critical scale of ~10-10 m/s^2. The observed scatter is remarkably small (<0.13 dex) and largely driven by observational uncertainties. The residuals do not correlate with any global or local galaxy property (baryonic mass, gas fraction, radius, etc.). The radial acceleration relation is tantamount to a Natural Law: when the baryonic contribution is measured, the rotation curve follows, and vice versa. Including ultrafaint dSphs, the relation may extend by another 2 dex and possibly flatten at gbar<10-12 m/s^2, but these data are significantly more uncertain. The radial acceleration relation subsumes and generalizes several well-known dynamical properties of galaxies, like the Tully-Fisher and Faber-Jackson relations, the "baryon-halo" conspiracies, and Renzo's rule.