Early evolution of disk galaxies: Formation of bulges in clumpy young galactic disks

Masafumi Noguchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

281 Citations (Scopus)


A new idea is proposed for the origin of bulges in spiral galaxies. Numerical simulations of protogalactic collapse suggest strongly that galactic bulges have been assembled from massive clumps formed in galactic disks in their early evolutionary phase. These clumps result from the gravitational instability of the gas-rich disks of young galaxies. Owing to dynamical frictions, those massive clumps, individual masses of which can be as large as ∼109 M, are able to spiral toward the galactic center within a few Gyr. Inward transport of disk matter by this process leads to the formation of a galactic bulge. A simple analytical model has been constructed in which the clumpy evolution of a disk galaxy is controlled by two parameters: the timescale with which the primordial gas in the halo accretes onto the disk plane (i.e., the collapse timescale) and the initial mass fraction of the gas relative to the galaxy total mass. Under plausible assumptions for the variation of these parameters among spiral galaxies, the clumpy evolution model can explain an observed trend in which the bulge-to-disk ratio increases as the total mass or the internal density of the galaxy increases. This success suggests that the clumpy evolution of the galactic disk constitutes an important ingredient of disk galaxy evolution. Star formation in primeval disk galaxies takes place mostly in the clumps. The resulting knotty appearance of these systems may explain the peculiar morphology observed in a number of high-redshift galaxies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-95
Number of pages19
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART 1
Publication statusPublished - 1999 Mar 20
Externally publishedYes


  • Galaxies : Kinematics and dynamics
  • Galaxies : Structure
  • Galaxies: Evolution
  • Galaxies: Formation
  • Galaxies: ISM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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