A Method to Constrain the Total Mass of Galaxy Groups

Astronomy and Astrophysics – Astrophysics

Scientific paper

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12 pages, 2 figures, to appear in New Astronomy, November 2006, Vol. 12, 2 issues

Scientific paper


We present a simple method to constrain the total mass of groups of galaxies. Tidal theory predicts that a limit to the mass of bound groups of galaxies can be obtained by using the fact that the tidal forces due to the external mass distributions are insufficient to disrupt the groups. To illustrate how the method works, we find tidal limits on the mass of eleven nearby galaxy groups. In most cases, tidal limits placed on these groups show that mass estimations obtained from methods based either on the application of the virial theorem or moments of the projected mass are underestimated by a factor of about 2 even if, in many cases, errors are large. Three groups show virial parameters fully concordant with the tidal constraints while two outlier groups show anomalous results. The irregular state of the latter suggests that the reliability of the method depends on the physical properties of the test groups, which should match the fundamental assumptions of spherical symmetry and dynamical equilibrium state.

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