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  1. Abstract

    We present the analysis of ∼100 pc scale compact radio continuum sources detected in 63 local (ultra)luminous infrared galaxies (U/LIRGs;LIR≥ 1011L), using FWHM ≲ 0.″1–0.″2 resolution 15 and 33 GHz observations with the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array. We identify a total of 133 compact radio sources with effective radii of 8–170 pc, which are classified into four main categories—“AGN” (active galactic nuclei), “AGN/SBnuc” (AGN-starburst composite nucleus), “SBnuc” (starburst nucleus), and “SF” (star-forming clumps)—based on ancillary data sets and the literature. We find that “AGN” and “AGN/SBnuc” more frequently occur in late-stage mergers and have up to 3 dex higher 33 GHz luminosities and surface densities compared with “SBnuc” and “SF,” which may be attributed to extreme nuclear starburst and/or AGN activity in the former. Star formation rates (SFRs) and surface densities (ΣSFR) are measured for “SF” and “SBnuc” using both the total 33 GHz continuum emission (SFR ∼ 0.14–13Myr−1, ΣSFR∼ 13–1600Myr−1kpc−2) and the thermal free–free emission from Hiiregions (median SFRth∼ 0.4Myr−1,ΣSFRth44Myr−1kpc−2). These values are 1–2 dex higher than those measured for similar-sized clumps in nearby normal (non-U/LIRGs). The latter also have a much flatter median 15–33 GHz spectral index (∼−0.08) compared withmore »“SBnuc” and “SF” (∼−0.46), which may reflect higher nonthermal contribution from supernovae and/or interstellar medium densities in local U/LIRGs that directly result from and/or lead to their extreme star-forming activities on 100 pc scales.

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  2. ABSTRACT The merger of two or more galaxies can enhance the inflow of material from galactic scales into the close environments of active galactic nuclei (AGNs), obscuring and feeding the supermassive black hole (SMBH). Both recent simulations and observations of AGN in mergers have confirmed that mergers are related to strong nuclear obscuration. However, it is still unclear how AGN obscuration evolves in the last phases of the merger process. We study a sample of 60 luminous and ultra-luminous IR galaxies (U/LIRGs) from the GOALS sample observed by NuSTAR. We find that the fraction of AGNs that are Compton thick (CT; $N_{\rm H}\ge 10^{24}\rm \, cm^{-2}$) peaks at $74_{-19}^{+14}{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ at a late merger stage, prior to coalescence, when the nuclei have projected separations (dsep) of 0.4–6 kpc. A similar peak is also observed in the median NH [$(1.6\pm 0.5)\times 10^{24}\rm \, cm^{-2}$]. The vast majority ($85^{+7}_{-9}{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$) of the AGNs in the final merger stages (dsep ≲ 10 kpc) are heavily obscured ($N_{\rm H}\ge 10^{23}\rm \, cm^{-2}$), and the median NH of the accreting SMBHs in our sample is systematically higher than that of local hard X-ray-selected AGN, regardless of the merger stage. This implies that thesemore »objects have very obscured nuclear environments, with the $N_{\rm H}\ge 10^{23}\rm \, cm^{-2}$ gas almost completely covering the AGN in late mergers. CT AGNs tend to have systematically higher absorption-corrected X-ray luminosities than less obscured sources. This could either be due to an evolutionary effect, with more obscured sources accreting more rapidly because they have more gas available in their surroundings, or to a selection bias. The latter scenario would imply that we are still missing a large fraction of heavily obscured, lower luminosity ($L_{2-10}\lesssim 10^{43}\rm \, erg\, s^{-1}$) AGNs in U/LIRGs.« less