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Resolving 3D Disk Orientation Using High-resolution Images: New Constraints on Circumgalactic Gas Inflows

  • Author(s): Ho, SH
  • Martin, CL
  • et al.

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© 2019. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved. We constrain gas inflow speeds in star-forming galaxies with color gradients consistent with inside-out disk growth. Our method combines new measurements of disk orientation with previously described circumgalactic absorption in background quasar spectra. Two quantities, a position angle and an axis ratio, describe the projected shape of each galactic disk on the sky, leaving an ambiguity about which side of the minor axis is tipped toward the observer. This degeneracy regarding the 3D orientation of disks has compromised previous efforts to measure gas inflow speeds. We present Hubble Space Telescope and Keck/LGSAO imaging that resolves the spiral structure in five galaxies at redshift z ≈ 0.2. We determine the sign of the disk inclination for four galaxies, under the assumption that spiral arms trail the rotation. We project models for both radial infall in the disk plane and circular orbits onto each quasar sightline. We compare the resulting line-of-sight velocities to the observed velocity range of Mg ii absorption in spectra of background quasars, which intersect the disk plane at radii between 69 and 115 kpc. For two sightlines, we constrain the maximum radial inflow speeds as 30-40 km s-1. We also rule out a velocity component from radial inflow in one sightline, suggesting that the structures feeding gas to these growing disks do not have unity covering factor. We recommend appropriate selection criteria for building larger samples of galaxy-quasar pairs that produce orientations sensitive to constraining inflow properties.

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