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2007ApJ...669L...9D - Astrophys. J., 669, L9-L12 (2007/November-1)

A dense gas trigger for OH megamasers.


Abstract (from CDS):

HCN and CO line diagnostics provide new insight into the OH megamaser (OHM) phenomenon, suggesting a dense gas trigger for OHMs. We identify three physical properties that differentiate OHM hosts from other starburst galaxies: (1) OHMs have the highest mean molecular gas densities among starburst galaxies; nearly all OHM hosts have n{d1}(H2)=103-104/cm3 (OH line-emitting clouds likely have n(H2)>104/cm3). (2) OHM hosts are a distinct population in the nonlinear part of the IR-CO relation. (3) OHM hosts have exceptionally high dense molecular gas fractions, LHCN/LCO>0.07, and comprise roughly half of this unusual population. OH absorbers and kilomasers generally follow the linear IR-CO relation and are uniformly distributed in dense gas fraction and LHCN, demonstrating that OHMs are independent of OH abundance. The fraction of non-OHMs with high mean densities and high dense gas fractions constrains beaming to be a minor effect: OHM emission solid angle must exceed 2π steradians. Contrary to conventional wisdom, IR luminosity does not dictate OHM formation; both star formation and OHM activity are consequences of tidal density enhancements accompanying galaxy interactions. The OHM fraction in starbursts is likely due to the fraction of mergers experiencing a temporal spike in tidally driven density enhancement. OHMs are thus signposts marking the most intense, compact, and unusual modes of star formation in the local universe. Future high-redshift OHM surveys can now be interpreted in a star formation and galaxy evolution context, indicating both the merging rate of galaxies and the burst contribution to star formation.

Abstract Copyright:

Journal keyword(s): Galaxies: Interactions - Galaxies: Nuclei - Galaxies: Starburst - Masers - Radio Lines: Galaxies

Simbad objects: 69

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