Dark halo shapes and the fate of stellar bars

Document Type


Publication Date



We investigate the stability properties of trajectories in barred galaxies with mildly triaxial halos by means of Liapunov exponents. This method is perfectly suitable for time-dependent three-dimensional potentials where surfaces of sections and other simple diagnostics are not applicable. We find that when halos are centrally concentrated most trajectories starting near the plane containing the bar become chaotic. The spatial density distribution of these orbits does not match that of the bar, being overextended in and out of the plane compared to the latter. Moreover, the shape of many of the remaining regular trajectories does not match the bar density distribution, being too round. Therefore, time-independent self-consistent solutions are highly unlikely to be found. When the nonrotating nonaxisymmetric perturbation in the potential reaches 10%, almost all trajectories integrated are chaotic and have large Liapunov exponents. No regular trajectories aligned with the bar have been found. Hence, if the evolution of the density figure is directly related to the characteristic timescale of orbital instability, bar dissolution would take place on a timescale of a few dynamical times. The slowly rotating nonaxisymmetric contribution to the potential required for the onset of wide-spread chaotic behavior is remarkably small. Even a potential axis ratio of 0.99 results in large connected chaotic regions dominating the space of initial conditions. Systems consisting of centrally concentrated axisymmetric halos and stellar bars thus appear to be structurally unstable, and small (∼1%) deviations from perfect axisymmetry should result in a bar dissolution on a timescale significantly smaller than the Hubble time. Since halos found in cold dark matter simulations of large-scale structure are both centrally concentrated and triaxial, it is unlikely that stellar bars embedded in such halos would form and survive unless the halos are modified during the formation of the baryonic component.

This document is currently not available here.