Galaxy zoo: Mergers - Dynamical models of interacting galaxies

Anthony J. Holincheck, John F. Wallin, Kirk Borne, Lucy Fortson, Chris Lintott, Arfon M. Smith, Steven Bamford, William C. Keel, Michael Parrish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The dynamical history of most merging galaxies is not well understood. Correlations between galaxy interaction and star formation have been found in previous studies, but require the context of the physical history of merging systems for full insight into the processes that lead to enhanced star formation. We present the results of simulations that reconstruct the orbit trajectories and disturbed morphologies of pairs of interacting galaxies. With the use of a restricted three-body simulation code and the help of citizen scientists, we sample 105 points in parameter space for each system. We demonstrate a successful recreation of the morphologies of 62 pairs of interacting galaxies through the review of more than 3 million simulations. We examine the level of convergence and uniqueness of the dynamical properties of each system. These simulations represent the largest collection of models of interacting galaxies to date, providing a valuable resource for the investigation of mergers. This paper presents the simulation parameters generated by the project. They are now publicly available in electronic format at Though our best-fitting model parameters are not an exact match to previously published models, our method for determining uncertainty measurements will aid future comparisons between models. The dynamical clocks from our models agree with previous results of the time since the onset of star formation from starburst models in interacting systems and suggest that tidally induced star formation is triggered very soon after closest approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)720-745
Number of pages26
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 11 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Authors.


  • Galaxies: interactions
  • Galaxies: kinematics and dynamics
  • Galaxies: peculiar
  • Methods: numerical


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