Smoothing rotation curves and mass profiles

Joel C. Berrier, J. A. Sellwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


We show that spiral activity can erase pronounced features in disk galaxy rotation curves. We present simulations of growing disks, in which the added material has a physically motivated distribution, as well as other examples of physically less realistic accretion. In all cases, attempts to create unrealistic rotation curves were unsuccessful because spiral activity rapidly smoothed away features in the diskmass profile. The added material was redistributed radially by the spiral activity, which was itself provoked by the density feature. In the case of a ridge-like feature in the surface density profile, we show that two unstable spiral modes develop, and the associated angular momentum changes in horseshoe orbits remove particles from the ridge and spread them both inward and outward. This process rapidly erases the density feature from the disk. We also find that the lack of a feature when transitioning from disk to halo dominance in the rotation curves of disk galaxies, the so called "disk-halo conspiracy," could also be accounted for by this mechanism. We do not create perfectly exponential mass profiles in the disk, but suggest that this mechanism contributes to their creation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number213
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Galaxies: kinematics and dynamics
  • Galaxies: spiral
  • Galaxies: structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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