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Probing highly obscured, self-absorbed galaxy nuclei with vibrationally excited HCN

AuthorsAalto, S.; Martin, S.; Costagliola, Francesco ; Gonzalez-Alfonso, E.; Muller, S.; Sakamoto, K.; Fuller, G. A.; Garcia-Burillo, S.; Van Der Werf, P.; Neri, R.; Spaans, M.; Combes, F.; Viti, S.; Muhle, S.; Armus, L.; Evans, A.; Sturm, E.; Cernicharo, José ; Henkel, C.; Greve, T. R.
KeywordsISM: molecules
Galaxies: ISM
Galaxies: nuclei
Galaxies: active
Galaxies: evolution
Issue Date18-Nov-2015
PublisherEDP Sciences
CitationAstronomy and Astrophysics 584: A42 (2015)
AbstractWe present high resolution (0.̋4) IRAM PdBI and ALMA mm and submm observations of the (ultra) luminous infrared galaxies ((U)LIRGs) IRAS 17208-0014, Arp220, IC 860 and Zw049.057 that reveal intense line emission from vibrationally excited (ν2 = 1) J = 3–2 and 4–3 HCN. The emission is emerging from buried, compact (r< 17–70 pc) nuclei that have very high implied mid-infrared surface brightness > 5 × 1013 L⊙ kpc-2. These nuclei are likely powered by accreting supermassive black holes (SMBHs) and/or hot (>200 K) extreme starbursts. Vibrational, ν2 = 1, lines of HCN are excited by intense 14 μm mid-infrared emission and are excellent probes of the dynamics, masses, and physical conditions of (U)LIRG nuclei when H2 column densities exceed 1024 cm-2. It is clear that these lines open up a new interesting avenue to gain access to the most obscured AGNs and starbursts. Vibrationally excited HCN acts as a proxy for the absorbed mid-infrared emission from the embedded nuclei, which allows for reconstruction of the intrinsic, hotter dust SED. In contrast, we show strong evidence that the ground vibrational state (ν = 0), J = 3–2and 4–3 rotational lines of HCN and HCO+ fail to probe the highly enshrouded, compact nuclear regions owing to strong self- and continuum absorption. The HCN and HCO+ line profiles are double-peaked because of the absorption and show evidence of non-circular motions – possibly in the form of in- or outflows. Detections of vibrationally excited HCN in external galaxies are so far limited to ULIRGs and early-type spiral LIRGs, and we discuss possible causes for this. We tentatively suggest that the peak of vibrationally excited HCN emission is connected to a rapid stage of nuclear growth, before the phase of strong feedback.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/201526410
Identifiersdoi: 10.1051/0004-6361/201526410
e-issn: 1432-0746
issn: 0004-6361
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