Minor merger origin for the circumnuclear starburst in NGC 7742.
MAZZUCA L.M., SARZI M., KNAPEN J.H., VEILLEUX S. and SWATERS R.
Abstract (from CDS):
We present an emission-line diagnostic analysis of integral-field spectroscopic observations that cover the central kiloparsec of NGC 7742. This Sa galaxy hosts a spectacular nuclear starburst ring and nuclear regions characterized by low-ionization emission. The gas in the ring rotates in the opposite sense to the stars in the galaxy, suggesting a recent merging or acquisition event. The combination of integral-field measurements for the Hα+[N II] emission lines from DensePak and the Hβ and [O III] emission from SAURON allow the construction of diagnostic diagrams that highlight the transition from star formation in the nuclear ring to excitation by high-velocity shocks or by an active galactic nucleus toward the center. DensePak measurements for the [S II] line ratio reveal very low gas densities in the nuclear ring, Ne<100/cm3, characteristic of massive H II regions. Comparison with MAPPINGS III models for starbursts with low gas densities show that the ring is of roughly solar metallicity. This suggests that the gas in the nuclear ring originated in a stellar system capable of substantially enriching the gas metallicity through sustained star formation. We propose that NGC 7742 cannibalized a smaller galaxy rich in metal-poor gas, and that star formation episodes in the ring have since increased the metallicity to its present value. The techniques explored here can be widely used to study similar systems, including composite (AGN+starburst) galaxies.