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Erwin, Peter and Debattista, Victor P. (2016): Caught in the act: Direct detection of galactic bars in the buckling phase. In: Astrophysical Journal Letters, Vol. 825, No. 2, L30

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The majority of massive disk galaxies, including our own, have stellar bars with vertically thick inner region, known as "boxy/peanut-shaped" (B/P) bulges. The most commonly suggested mechanism for the formation of B/P bulges is a violent vertical "buckling" instability in the bar, something that has been seen in N-body simulations for over 20 years, but never identified in real galaxies. Here, we present the first direct observational evidence for ongoing buckling in two nearby galaxies (NGC 3227 and NGC 4569), including characteristic asymmetric isophotes and (in NGC 4569) stellar kinematic asymmetries that match buckling in simulations. This confirms that the buckling instability takes place and produces B/P bulges in real galaxies. A toy model of bar evolution yields a local fraction of buckling bars consistent with observations if the buckling phase lasts similar to 0.5-1 Gyr, in agreement with simulations.

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