Published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Series A, Vol. 358, no. 1772, p.2063, 2000
Abstract. Gravitational interactions and mergers are shaping and reshaping galaxies throughout the observable universe. While observations of interacting galaxies at low redshifts yield detailed information about the processes at work, observations at high redshifts suggest that interactions and mergers were much more frequent in the past. Major mergers of nearby disk galaxies form remnants that share many properties with ellipticals and are, in essence, present-day protoellipticals. There is also tantalizing evidence that minor mergers of companions may help build bulges in disk galaxies. Gas plays a crucial role in such interactions. Because of its dissipative nature, it tends to get crunched into molecular form, turning into fuel for starbursts and active nuclei. Besides the evidence for ongoing interactions, signatures of past interactions and mergers in galaxies abound: tidal tails and ripples, counterrotating disks and bulges, polar rings, systems of young globular clusters, and aging starbursts. Galaxy formation and transformation clearly is a prolonged process occurring to the present time. Overall, the currently available observational evidence points towards Hubble's morphological sequence being mainly a sequence of decreasing merger damage.
Keywords: Galaxy interactions, mergers, elliptical formation, bulge formation, starbursts, quasars
Table of Contents