skip to main content

Title: PHANGS–JWST First Results: Destruction of the PAH Molecules in H ii Regions Probed by JWST and MUSE

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) play a critical role in the reprocessing of stellar radiation and balancing the heating and cooling processes in the interstellar medium but appear to be destroyed in Hiiregions. However, the mechanisms driving their destruction are still not completely understood. Using PHANGS–JWST and PHANGS–MUSE observations, we investigate how the PAH fraction changes in about 1500 Hiiregions across four nearby star-forming galaxies (NGC 628, NGC 1365, NGC 7496, and IC 5332). We find a strong anticorrelation between the PAH fraction and the ionization parameter (the ratio between the ionizing photon flux and the hydrogen density) of Hiiregions. This relation becomes steeper for more luminous Hiiregions. The metallicity of Hiiregions has only a minor impact on these results in our galaxy sample. We find that the PAH fraction decreases with the Hαequivalent width—a proxy for the age of the Hiiregions—although this trend is much weaker than the one identified using the ionization parameter. Our results are consistent with a scenario where hydrogen-ionizing UV radiation is the dominant source of PAH destruction in star-forming regions.

more » « less
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; more » ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; « less
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal Letters
Page Range / eLocation ID:
Article No. L16
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    We present maps tracing the fraction of dust in the form of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in IC 5332, NGC 628, NGC 1365, and NGC 7496 from JWST/MIRI observations. We trace the PAH fraction by combining the F770W (7.7μm) and F1130W (11.3μm) filters to track ionized and neutral PAH emission, respectively, and comparing the PAH emission to F2100W, which traces small, hot dust grains. We find the averageRPAH= (F770W + F1130W)/F2100W values of 3.3, 4.7, 5.1, and 3.6 in IC 5332, NGC 628, NGC 1365, and NGC 7496, respectively. We find that Hiiregions traced by MUSE Hαshow a systematically low PAH fraction. The PAH fraction remains relatively constant across other galactic environments, with slight variations. We use CO+Hi+Hαto trace the interstellar gas phase and find that the PAH fraction decreases above a value ofIHα/ΣHI+H21037.5ergs1kpc2(Mpc2)1in all four galaxies. Radial profiles also show a decreasing PAH fraction with increasing radius, correlated with lower metallicity, in line with previous results showing a strong metallicity dependence to the PAH fraction. Our results suggest that the process of PAH destruction in ionized gas operates similarly across the four targets.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    The nearby, luminous infrared galaxy NGC 7469 hosts a Seyfert nucleus with a circumnuclear star-forming ring and is thus the ideal local laboratory for investigating the starburst–AGN (active galactic nucleus) connection in detail. We present integral-field observations of the central 1.3 kpc region in NGC 7469 obtained with the JWST Mid-InfraRed Instrument. Molecular and ionized gas distributions and kinematics at a resolution of ∼100 pc over the 4.9–7.6μm region are examined to study the gas dynamics influenced by the central AGN. The low-ionization [Feii]λ5.34μm and [Arii]λ6.99μm lines are bright on the nucleus and in the starburst ring, as opposed to H2S(5)λ6.91μm, which is strongly peaked at the center and surrounding ISM. The high-ionization [Mgv] line is resolved and shows a broad, blueshifted component associated with the outflow. It has a nearly face-on geometry that is strongly peaked on the nucleus, where it reaches a maximum velocity of −650 km s−1, and extends about 400 pc to the east. Regions of enhanced velocity dispersion in H2and [Feii] ∼ 180 pc from the AGN that also show highL(H2)/L(PAH) andL([Feii])/L(Pfα) ratios to the W and N of the nucleus pinpoint regions where the ionized outflow is depositing energy, via shocks, into the dense interstellar medium between the nucleus and the starburst ring. These resolved mid-infrared observations of the nuclear gas dynamics demonstrate the power of JWST and its high-sensitivity integral-field spectroscopic capability to resolve feedback processes around supermassive black holes in the dusty cores of nearby luminous infrared galaxies.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract We present James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) integral-field spectroscopy of the nearby merging, luminous infrared galaxy, NGC 7469. This galaxy hosts a Seyfert type-1.5 nucleus, a highly ionized outflow, and a bright, circumnuclear star-forming ring, making it an ideal target to study active galactic nucleus (AGN) feedback in the local universe. We take advantage of the high spatial/spectral resolution of JWST/MIRI to isolate the star-forming regions surrounding the central active nucleus and study the properties of the dust and warm molecular gas on ∼100 pc scales. The starburst ring exhibits prominent polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) emission, with grain sizes and ionization states varying by only ∼30%, and a total star formation rate of 10–30 M ⊙ yr −1 derived from fine structure and recombination emission lines. Using pure rotational lines of H 2 we detect 1.2 × 10 7 M ⊙ of warm molecular gas at a temperature higher than 200 K in the ring. All PAH bands get significantly weaker toward the central source, where larger and possibly more ionized grains dominate the emission, likely the result of the ionizing radiation and/or the fast wind emerging from the AGN. The small grains and warm molecular gas in the bright regions of the ring however display properties consistent with normal star-forming regions. These observations highlight the power of JWST to probe the inner regions of dusty, rapidly evolving galaxies for signatures of feedback and inform models that seek to explain the coevolution of supermassive black holes and their hosts. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    We present a high-resolution view of bubbles within the Phantom Galaxy (NGC 628), a nearby (∼10 Mpc), star-forming (∼2Myr−1), face-on (i∼ 9°) grand-design spiral galaxy. With new data obtained as part of the Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS (PHANGS)-JWST treasury program, we perform a detailed case study of two regions of interest, one of which contains the largest and most prominent bubble in the galaxy (the Phantom Void, over 1 kpc in diameter), and the other being a smaller region that may be the precursor to such a large bubble (the Precursor Phantom Void). When comparing to matched-resolution Hαobservations from the Hubble Space Telescope, we see that the ionized gas is brightest in the shells of both bubbles, and is coincident with the youngest (∼1 Myr) and most massive (∼105M) stellar associations. We also find an older generation (∼20 Myr) of stellar associations is present within the bubble of the Phantom Void. From our kinematic analysis of the HI, H2(CO), and Hiigas across the Phantom Void, we infer a high expansion speed of around 15 to 50 km s−1. The large size and high expansion speed of the Phantom Void suggest that the driving mechanism is sustained stellar feedback due to multiple mechanisms, where early feedback first cleared a bubble (as we observe now in the Precursor Phantom Void), and since then supernovae have been exploding within the cavity and have accelerated the shell. Finally, comparison to simulations shows a striking resemblance to our JWST observations, and suggests that such large-scale, stellar-feedback-driven bubbles should be common within other galaxies.

    more » « less

    Connecting the gas in H ii regions to the underlying source of the ionizing radiation can help us constrain the physical processes of stellar feedback and how H ii regions evolve over time. With PHANGS–MUSE, we detect nearly 24 000 H ii regions across 19 galaxies and measure the physical properties of the ionized gas (e.g. metallicity, ionization parameter, and density). We use catalogues of multiscale stellar associations from PHANGS–HST to obtain constraints on the age of the ionizing sources. We construct a matched catalogue of 4177 H ii regions that are clearly linked to a single ionizing association. A weak anticorrelation is observed between the association ages and the $\mathrm{H}\, \alpha$ equivalent width $\mathrm{EW}(\mathrm{H}\, \alpha)$, the $\mathrm{H}\, \alpha/\mathrm{FUV}$ flux ratio, and the ionization parameter, log q. As all three are expected to decrease as the stellar population ages, this could indicate that we observe an evolutionary sequence. This interpretation is further supported by correlations between all three properties. Interpreting these as evolutionary tracers, we find younger nebulae to be more attenuated by dust and closer to giant molecular clouds, in line with recent models of feedback-regulated star formation. We also observe strong correlations with the local metallicity variations and all three proposed age tracers, suggestive of star formation preferentially occurring in locations of locally enhanced metallicity. Overall, $\mathrm{EW}(\mathrm{H}\, \alpha)$ and log q show the most consistent trends and appear to be most reliable tracers for the age of an H ii region.

    more » « less