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Starburst in the ultraluminous galaxy Arp 220: Constraints from observations of radio recombination lines and continuum

Anantharamaiah, KR and Viallefond, F and Mohan, NIRUJ R and Goss, WM and Zhao, JH (2000) Starburst in the ultraluminous galaxy Arp 220: Constraints from observations of radio recombination lines and continuum. In: Astrophysical Journal, 537 (2). pp. 613-630.

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Official URL: http://iopscience.iop.org/0004-637X/537/2/613

Abstract

We present observations of radio recombination lines (RRL) from the starburst galaxy Arp 220 at 8.1 GHz (H92 alpha) and 1.4 GHz (H167 alpha and H165 alpha) and at 84 GHz (H42 alpha), 96 GHz (H40 alpha) and 207 GHz (H31 alpha) using the Very Large Array and the IRAM 30 m telescope, respectively. RRLs were detected at all the frequencies except 1.4 GHz, where a sensitive upper limit was obtained. We also present continuum flux measurements at these frequencies as well as at 327 MHz made with the VLA. The continuum spectrum, which has a spectral index alpha similar to -0.6 (S-nu proportional to nu(alpha)) between 5 and 10 GHz, shows a break near 1.5 GHz, a prominent turnover below 500 MHz, and a flatter spectral index above 50 GHz. We show that a model with three components of ionized gas with different densities and area covering factors can consistently explain both RRL and continuum data. The total mass of ionized gas in the three components is 3.2 x 10(7) M., requiring 3 x 10(5) O5 stars with a total Lyman continuum production rate N-Lyc similar to 1.3 x 10(55) photons s(-1). The ratio of the expected to observed Br alpha and Br gamma fluxes implies a dust extinction A(V) similar to 45 mag. The derived Lyman continuum photon production rate implies a continuous star formation rate (SFR) averaged over the lifetime of OB stars of similar to 240 M yr(-1). The Lyman continuum photon Production rate of similar to 3% associated with the high-density H II regions implies a similar SFR at recent epochs (t < 10(5) yr). An alternative model of high-density gas, which cannot be excluded on the basis of the available data, predicts 10 times higher SFR at recent epochs. If confirmed, this model implies that star formation in Arp 220 consists of multiple starbursts of very high SFR (few times 10(3) M. yr(-1)) and short duration (similar to 10(5) yr). The similarity of IR excess, L-IR/L-Ly alpha similar to 24, in Arp 220 to values observed in starburst galaxies shows that most of the high luminosity of Arp 220 is due to the ongoing starburst rather than to a hidden active galactic nucleus (AGN). A comparison of the IR excesses in Arp 220, the Galaxy, and M33 indicates that the starburst in Arp 220 has an initial mass function that is similar to that in normal galaxies and has a duration longer than 107 yr. If there was no infall of gas during this period, then the star formation efficiency (SFE) in Arp 220 is similar to 50%. The high SFR and SFE in Arp 220 is consistent with their known dependences on mass and density of gas in star-forming regions of normal galaxies.

Item Type: Journal Article
Additional Information: Copyright of this article belongs to University of Chicago Press.
Department/Centre: Division of Physical & Mathematical Sciences > Astronomy and Astrophysics Programme
Date Deposited: 28 Jul 2010 10:55
Last Modified: 19 Sep 2010 06:13
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ernet.in/id/eprint/30991

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