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The Astrophysical Journal


We have analyzed the radial distribution of old stars in a sample of 218 nearby face-on disks, using deep 3.6μm images from the Spitzer Survey of Stellar Structure in Galaxies. In particular, we have studied the structural properties of those disks with a broken or down-bending profile. We find that, on average, disks with a genuine single-exponential profile have a scale length and a central surface brightness which are intermediate to those of the inner and outer components of a down-bending disk with the same total stellar mass. In the particular case of barred galaxies, the ratio between the break and the bar radii (Rbr/Rbar) depends strongly on the total stellar mass of the galaxy. For galaxies more massive than 1010M , the distribution is bimodal, peaking at Rbr/Rbar ∼ 2 and ∼3.5. The first peak, which is the most populated one, is linked to the outer Lindblad resonance of the bar, whereas the second one is consistent with a dynamical coupling between the bar and the spiral pattern. For galaxies below 1010M , breaks are found up to ∼10Rbar, but we show that they could still be caused by resonances given the rising nature of rotation curves in these low-mass disks. While not ruling out star formation thresholds, our results imply that radial stellar migration induced by non-axisymmetric features can be responsible not only for those breaks at ∼2Rbar, but also for many of those found at larger radii.



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