Suppression of Star Formation in NGC 1266

January 2015 • 2015ApJ...798...31A

Authors • Alatalo, Katherine • Lacy, Mark • Lanz, Lauranne • Bitsakis, Theodoros • Appleton, Philip N. • Nyland, Kristina • Cales, Sabrina L. • Chang, Philip • Davis, Timothy A. • de Zeeuw, P. T. • Lonsdale, Carol J. • Martín, Sergio • Meier, David S. • Ogle, Patrick M.

Abstract • NGC 1266 is a nearby lenticular galaxy that harbors a massive outflow of molecular gas powered by the mechanical energy of an active galactic nucleus (AGN). It has been speculated that such outflows hinder star formation (SF) in their host galaxies, providing a form of feedback to the process of galaxy formation. Previous studies, however, indicated that only jets from extremely rare, high-power quasars or radio galaxies could impart significant feedback on their hosts. Here we present detailed observations of the gas and dust continuum of NGC 1266 at millimeter wavelengths. Our observations show that molecular gas is being driven out of the nuclear region at \dot{M}_out ≈ 110 M_⊙ yr-1, of which the vast majority cannot escape the nucleus. Only 2 M yr-1 is actually capable of escaping the galaxy. Most of the molecular gas that remains is very inefficient at forming stars. The far-infrared emission is dominated by an ultra-compact (lsim 50 pc) source that could either be powered by an AGN or by an ultra-compact starburst. The ratio of the SF surface density (ΣSFR) to the gas surface density (Σ _H_2) indicates that SF is suppressed by a factor of ≈50 compared to normal star-forming galaxies if all gas is forming stars, and ≈150 for the outskirt (98%) dense molecular gas if the central region is powered by an ultra-compact starburst. The AGN-driven bulk outflow could account for this extreme suppression by hindering the fragmentation and gravitational collapse necessary to form stars through a process of turbulent injection. This result suggests that even relatively common, low-power AGNs are able to alter the evolution of their host galaxies as their black holes grow onto the M-σ relation.


IPAC Authors


Phil Appleton

Senior Scientist