Evolution of Stellar Bars in Live Axisymmetric Halos: Recurrent Buckling and Secular Growth

Martinez-Valpuesta, Inma; Shlosman, Isaac; Heller, Clayton
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The Astrophysical Journal, Volume 637, Issue 1, pp. 214-226.

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Evolution of stellar bars in disk galaxies is accompanied by dynamical instabilities and secular changes. Following the vertical buckling instability, the bars are known to weaken dramatically and develop a pronounced boxy/peanut shape when observed edge-on. Using high-resolution N-body simulations of stellar disks embedded in live axisymmetric dark matter halos, we have investigated the long-term changes in the bar morphology, specifically the evolution of the bar size, its vertical structure, and the exchange of angular momentum. We find that following the initial buckling, the bar resumes its growth from deep inside the corotation radius and follows the ultraharmonic resonance thereafter. We also find that this secular bar growth triggers a spectacular secondary vertical buckling instability that leads to the appearance of characteristic boxy/peanut/X-shaped bulges. The secular bar growth is crucial for the recurrent buckling to develop. Furthermore, the secondary buckling is milder, persists over a substantial period of time, ~3 Gyr, and can have observational counterparts. Overall, the stellar bars show recurrent behavior in their properties and evolve by increasing their linear and vertical extents, both dynamically and secularly. We also demonstrate explicitly that the prolonged growth of the bar is mediated by continuous angular momentum transfer from the disk to the surrounding halo and that this angular momentum redistribution is resonant in nature: a large number of lower resonances trap disk and halo particles, and this trapping is robust, in broad agreement with the earlier results in the literature.