Astron. J., 135, 747-765 (2008/March-0)
HST/WFPC2 imaging of the circumnuclear structure of low-luminosity active galactic nuclei. I. Data and nuclear morphology.
GONZALEZ-DELGADO R.M., PEREZ E., FERNANDES R.C. and SCHMITT H.
Abstract (from CDS):
In several studies of low-luminosity active galactic nuclei (LLAGNs), we have characterized the properties of the stellar populations in LINERs and LINER/H II transition objects (TOs). We have found a populous class of galactic nuclei which stand out because of their conspicuous 0.1-1 Gyr populations. These nuclei are called "Young-TOs" since they all have TO-like emission line ratios. To advance our knowledge of the nature of the central source in LLAGNs and its relation with stellar clusters, we carry out several imaging projects with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) at near-UV, optical, and near-IR wavelengths. In this Paper, we present the first results obtained with observations of the central regions of 57 LLAGNs imaged with the WFPC2 through any of the V (F555W, F547M, F614W) and I (F791W, F814W) filters that are available in the HST archive. The sample contains 34% of the LINERs and 36% of the TOs in the Palomar sample. The mean spatial resolution of these images is 10 pc. With these data we have built an atlas that includes structural maps for all the galaxies, useful to identify compact nuclear sources and, additionally, to characterize the circumnuclear environment of LLAGNs, determining the frequency of dust and its morphology. The main results obtained are as follows. (1) We have not found any correlation between the presence of nuclear compact sources and emission-line type. Thus, nucleated LINERs are as frequent as nucleated TOs. (2) The nuclei of "Young-TOs" are brighter than the nuclei of "Old-TOs" and LINERs. These results confirm our previous results that Young-TOs are separated from other LLAGNs classes in terms of their central stellar population properties and brightness. (3) Circumnuclear dust is detected in 88% of the LLAGNs, being almost ubiquitous in TOs. (4) The dust morphology is complex and varied, from nuclear spiral lanes to chaotic filaments and nuclear disk-like structures. Chaotic filaments are as frequent as dust spirals; but nuclear disks are mainly seen in LINERs. These results suggest an evolutionary sequence of the dust in LLAGNs, LINERs being the more evolved systems and Young-TOs the youngest.
dust, extinction - galaxies: active - galaxies: clusters: general - galaxies: nuclei - galaxies: structure
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