by Manuel Behrendt
(Line of sight gas surface density (linear scaling) of a simulated galaxy observed at an inclination of 60°)
The GIF animation illustrates how clusters of many smaller clumps
merge to giant single objects with decreasing observational resolution.
Giant clumps are a characteristic feature of observed high-redshift disk galaxies. We propose that these kiloparsec- sized clumps have a complex substructure and are the result of many smaller clumps self-organizing themselves into clump clusters (CCs). This bottom-up scenario is in contrast to the common top-down view that these giant clumps form first and then sub-fragment. Using a high-resolution hydrodynamical simulation of an isolated, fragmented massive gas disk and mimicking the observations from Genzel et al. at z = 2, we find remarkable agreement in many details. The CCs appear as single entities of sizes RHWHM = 0.9–1.4 kpc and masses (1.5–3) x 10^9 Msun, representative of high-z observations. They are organized in a ring around the center of the galaxy. The origin of the observed clumps’ high intrinsic velocity dispersion 50–100 km/s is fully explained by the internal irregular motions of their substructure in our simulation. No additional energy input, e.g., via stellar feedback, is necessary. Furthermore, in agreement with observations, we find a small velocity gradient Vgrad=8–27 km/s/kpc along the CCs in the beam-smeared velocity residual maps, which corresponds to net prograde and retrograde rotation with respect to the rotation of the galactic disk. The CC scenario could have strong implications for the internal evolution, lifetimes, and the migration timescales of the observed giant clumps, bulge growth, and active galactic nucleus activity, stellar feedback, and the chemical enrichment history of galactic disks.