We have mapped the 2.6 mm CO J=1⟶0 emission in three optically selected ``Toomre sequence'' mergers (NGC 520, NGC 3921, NGC 4676). The molecular gas distribution is well resolved by the observations. For NGC 520 and NGC 4676A, the nuclear gas concentrations form a disklike or a ringlike structure, and the gas kinematics are regular and consistent with simple rotation. Discrete molecular gas complexes are found along the stellar bar in NGC 4676B, and the gas kinematics is consistent with the disk rotation traced in Hα. The molecular gas distribution in NGC 3921 is asymmetric about the stellar remnant, and both the distribution and kinematics suggest that the molecular gas has not settled into the center of the remnant. Molecular gas clouds are detected outside the central regions of NGC 3921 and NGC 4676, and they may be associated with the tidal tails and bridges mapped in H I. Departures from the canonical scenario for a merger involving two large spiral galaxies are found in all three Toomre sequence mergers studied. Our data suggest that one of the progenitor disks in NGC 520 and NGC 3921 was relatively gas-poor. A detailed comparison of these optically selected mergers and more luminous IR-selected mergers is deferred to a separate paper.
galaxies: individual (NGC 520, NGC 3921, NGC 4676) - Galaxies: Interactions - Galaxies: ISM - Infrared: Galaxies
Table 1 : NGC 520 N = NGC 520A, NGC 520 S = NGC 520B