Probing the Interstellar Medium of z ~ 1 Ultraluminous Infrared Galaxies through Interferometric Observations of CO and Spitzer Mid-infrared Spectroscopy

August 2013 • 2013ApJ...772...92P

Authors • Pope, Alexandra • Wagg, Jeff • Frayer, David • Armus, Lee • Chary, Ranga-Ram • Daddi, Emanuele • Desai, Vandana • Dickinson, Mark E. • Elbaz, David • Gabor, Jared • Kirkpatrick, Allison

Abstract • We explore the relationship between gas, dust, and star formation in a sample of 12 ultraluminous infrared galaxies (ULIRGs) at high-redshift compared to a similar sample of local galaxies. We present new CO observations and/or Spitzer mid-IR spectroscopy for six 70 μm selected galaxies at z ~ 1 in order to quantify the properties of the molecular gas reservoir, the contribution of an active galactic nucleus (AGN) to the mid-IR luminosity, and the star formation efficiency (SFE = L IR/L^{\prime }_{CO}). The mid-IR spectra show strong polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) emission, and our spectral decomposition suggests that the AGN makes a minimal contribution (<25%) to the mid-IR luminosity. The 70 μm selected ULIRGs, which we find to be spectroscopic close pairs, are observed to have high SFE, similar to local ULIRGs and high-redshift submillimeter galaxies, consistent with enhanced IR luminosity due to an ongoing major merger. Combined with existing observations of local and high-redshift ULIRGs, we further compare the PAH, IR, and CO luminosities. We show that the ratio L PAH, 6.2/L IR decreases with increasing IR luminosity for both local and high-redshift galaxies, but the trend for high-redshift galaxies is shifted to higher IR luminosities; the average L PAH, 6.2/L IR ratio at a given L IR is ~3 times higher at high-redshift. When we normalize by the molecular gas, we find this trend to be uniform for galaxies at all redshifts and that the molecular gas is correlated with the PAH dust emission. The similar trends seen in the [C II] to molecular gas ratios in other studies suggests that PAH emission, like [C II], continues to be a good tracer of photodissociation regions even at high-redshift. Together the CO, PAH, and far-IR fine structure lines should be useful for constraining the interstellar medium conditions in high-redshift galaxies.

Based on observations carried out with the IRAM Plateau de Bure Interferometer. IRAM is supported by INSU/CNRS (France), MPG (Germany), and IGN (Spain).


IPAC Authors


Lee Armus

Senior Scientist

Ranga-Ram Chary

Senior Scientist

Vandana Desai

Senior Scientist