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  1. ABSTRACT

    The low-J rotational transitions of 12CO are commonly used to trace the distribution of molecular gas in galaxies. Their ratios are sensitive to excitation and physical conditions in the molecular gas. Spatially resolved studies of CO ratios are still sparse and affected by flux calibration uncertainties, especially since most do not have high angular resolution or do not have short-spacing information and hence miss any diffuse emission. We compare the low-J CO ratios across the disc of two massive, star-forming spiral galaxies NGC 2903 and NGC 3627 to investigate whether and how local environments drive excitation variations at GMC scales. We use Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) observations of the three lowest-J CO transitions at a common angular resolution of 4 arcsec (190 pc). We measure median line ratios of $R_{21}=0.67^{+0.13}_{-0.11}$, $R_{32}=0.33^{+0.09}_{-0.08}$, and $R_{31}=0.24^{+0.10}_{-0.09}$ across the full disc of NGC 3627. We see clear CO line ratio variation across the galaxy consistent with changes in temperature and density of the molecular gas. In particular, towards the centre, R21, R32, and R31 increase by 35  per cent, 50  per cent, and 66  per cent, respectively, compared to their average disc values. The overall line ratio trends suggest that CO(3–2) is more sensitive to changes in the excitation conditions than the two lower J transitions. Furthermore, we find a similar radial R32 trend in NGC 2903, albeit a larger disc-wide average of $\langle R_{32}\rangle =0.47^{+0.14}_{-0.08}$. We conclude that the CO low-J line ratios vary across environments in such a way that they can trace changes in the molecular gas conditions, with the main driver being changes in temperature.

     
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  2. Nitrogen hydrides such as NH3 and N2H+ are widely used by Galactic observers to trace the cold dense regions of the interstellar medium. In external galaxies, because of limited sensitivity, HCN has become the most common tracer of dense gas over large parts of galaxies. We provide the first systematic measurements of N2H+ (1-0) across different environments of an external spiral galaxy, NGC 6946. We find a strong correlation (r > 0.98, p < 0.01) between the HCN (1-0) and N2H+ (1-0) intensities across the inner ∼8 kpc of the galaxy, at kiloparsec scales. This correlation is equally strong between the ratios N2H+ (1-0)/CO (1-0) and HCN (1-0)/CO (1-0), tracers of dense gas fractions (fdense). We measure an average intensity ratio of N2H+ (1-0)/HCN (1-0) = 0.15 ± 0.02 over our set of five IRAM-30m pointings. These trends are further supported by existing measurements for Galactic and extragalactic sources. This narrow distribution in the average ratio suggests that the observed systematic trends found in kiloparsec-scale extragalactic studies of fdense and the efficiency of dense gas (SFEdense) would not change if we employed N2H+ (1-0) as a more direct tracer of dense gas. At kiloparsec scales our results indicate that the HCN (1-0) emission can be used to predict the expected N2H+ (1-0) over those regions. Our results suggest that, even if HCN (1-0) and N2H+ (1-0) trace different density regimes within molecular clouds, subcloud differences average out at kiloparsec scales, yielding the two tracers proportional to each other. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  3. The complex physical, kinematic, and chemical properties of galaxy centres make them interesting environments to examine with molecular line emission. We present new 2 − 4″ (∼75 − 150 pc at 7.7 Mpc) observations at 2 and 3 mm covering the central 50″ (∼1.9 kpc) of the nearby double-barred spiral galaxy NGC 6946 obtained with the IRAM Plateau de Bure Interferometer. We detect spectral lines from ten molecules: CO, HCN, HCO + , HNC, CS, HC 3 N, N 2 H + , C 2 H, CH 3 OH, and H 2 CO. We complemented these with published 1 mm CO observations and 33 GHz continuum observations to explore the star formation rate surface density Σ SFR on 150 pc scales. In this paper, we analyse regions associated with the inner bar of NGC 6946 – the nuclear region (NUC), the northern (NBE), and southern inner bar end (SBE) and we focus on short-spacing corrected bulk (CO) and dense gas tracers (HCN, HCO + , and HNC). We find that HCO + correlates best with Σ SFR , but the dense gas fraction ( f dense ) and star formation efficiency of the dense gas (SFE dense ) fits show different behaviours than expected from large-scale disc observations. The SBE has a higher Σ SFR , f dense , and shocked gas fraction than the NBE. We examine line ratio diagnostics and find a higher CO(2−1)/CO(1−0) ratio towards NBE than for the NUC. Moreover, comparison with existing extragalactic datasets suggests that using the HCN/HNC ratio to probe kinetic temperatures is not suitable on kiloparsec and sub-kiloparsec scales in extragalactic regions. Lastly, our study shows that the HCO + /HCN ratio might not be a unique indicator to diagnose AGN activity in galaxies. 
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  4. null (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Both the CO(2–1) and CO(1–0) lines are used to trace the mass of molecular gas in galaxies. Translating the molecular gas mass estimates between studies using different lines requires a good understanding of the behaviour of the CO(2–1)-to-CO(1–0) ratio, R21. We compare new, high-quality CO(1–0) data from the IRAM 30-m EMIR MultiLine Probe of the ISM Regulating Galaxy Evolution survey to the latest available CO(2–1) maps from HERA CO-Line Extragalactic Survey, Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby Galaxies-ALMA, and a new IRAM 30-m M51 Large Program. This allows us to measure R21 across the full star-forming disc of nine nearby, massive, star-forming spiral galaxies at 27 arcsec (∼1–2 kpc) resolution. We find an average R21 = 0.64 ± 0.09 when we take the luminosity-weighted mean of all individual galaxies. This result is consistent with the mean ratio for disc galaxies that we derive from single-pointing measurements in the literature, $R_{\rm 21, lit}~=~0.59^{+0.18}_{-0.09}$. The ratio shows weak radial variations compared to the point-to-point scatter in the data. In six out of nine targets, the central enhancement in R21 with respect to the galaxy-wide mean is of order of ${\sim}10{-}20{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$. We estimate an azimuthal scatter of ∼20 per cent in R21 at fixed galactocentric radius but this measurement is limited by our comparatively coarse resolution of 1.5 kpc. We find mild correlations between R21 and carbon monoxide (CO) brightness temperature, infrared (IR) intensity, 70–160 µm ratio, and IR-to-CO ratio. All correlations indicate that R21 increases with gas surface density, star formation rate surface density, and the interstellar radiation field. 
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  5. It remains unclear what sets the efficiency with which molecular gas transforms into stars. Here we present a new VLA map of the spiral galaxy M 51 in 33 GHz radio continuum, an extinction-free tracer of star formation, at 3″ scales (∼100 pc). We combined this map with interferometric PdBI/NOEMA observations of CO(1–0) and HCN(1–0) at matched resolution for three regions in M 51 (central molecular ring, northern and southern spiral arm segments). While our measurements roughly fall on the well-known correlation between total infrared and HCN luminosity, bridging the gap between Galactic and extragalactic observations, we find systematic offsets from that relation for different dynamical environments probed in M 51; for example, the southern arm segment is more quiescent due to low star formation efficiency (SFE) of the dense gas, despite its high dense gas fraction. Combining our results with measurements from the literature at 100 pc scales, we find that the SFE of the dense gas and the dense gas fraction anti-correlate and correlate, respectively, with the local stellar mass surface density. This is consistent with previous kpc-scale studies. In addition, we find a significant anti-correlation between the SFE and velocity dispersion of the dense gas. Finally, we confirm that a correlation also holds between star formation rate surface density and the dense gas fraction, but it is not stronger than the correlation with dense gas surface density. Our results are hard to reconcile with models relying on a universal gas density threshold for star formation and suggest that turbulence and galactic dynamics play a major role in setting how efficiently dense gas converts into stars. 
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