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  1. ABSTRACT

    We report the discovery of the ‘mm fundamental plane of black hole accretion’, which is a tight correlation between the nuclear 1 mm luminosity (Lν, mm), the intrinsic 2–10 keV X-ray luminosity (LX, 2–10) and the supermassive black hole (SMBH) mass (MBH) with an intrinsic scatter (σint) of 0.40 dex. The plane is found for a sample of 48 nearby galaxies, most of which are low-luminosity active galactic nuclei. Combining these sources with a sample of high-luminosity (quasar-like) nearby AGN, we show that the plane still holds. We also find that MBH correlates with Lν, mm at a highly significant level, although such correlation is less tight than the mm fundamental plane (σint = 0.51 dex). Crucially, we show that spectral energy distribution (SED) models for both advection-dominated accretion flows (ADAFs) and compact jets can explain the existence of these relations, which are not reproduced by the standard torus-thin accretion disc models usually associated to quasar-like AGN. The ADAF models reproduces the observed relations somewhat better than those for compact jets, although neither provides a perfect fit. Our findings thus suggest that radiatively inefficient accretion processes such as those in ADAFs or compact (and thus possibly young) jets may play a key role in both low- and high-luminosity AGN. This mm fundamental plane also offers a new, rapid method to (indirectly) estimate SMBH masses.

     
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  2. ABSTRACT

    The co-evolution of galaxies and supermassive black holes (SMBHs) underpins our understanding of galaxy evolution, but different methods to measure SMBH masses have only infrequently been cross-checked. We attempt to identify targets to cross-check two of the most accurate methods, megamaser, and cold molecular gas dynamics. Three promising galaxies are selected from all those with existing megamaser SMBH mass measurements. We present Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array (ALMA) 12CO (2–1) and 230-GHz continuum observations with angular resolutions of ≈0${_{.}^{\prime\prime}}$5. Every galaxy has an extended rotating molecular gas disc and 230-GHz continuum source(s), but all also have irregularities and/or non-axisymmetric features: NGC 1194 is highly inclined and has disturbed and lopsided central 12CO (2–1) emission; NGC 3393 has a nuclear disc with fairly regular but patchy 12CO (2–1) emission with little gas near the kinematic major axis, faint emission in the very centre, and two brighter structures reminiscent of a nuclear ring and/or spiral; NGC 5765B has a strong bar and very bright 12CO (2–1) emission concentrated along two bisymmetric offset dust lanes and two bisymmetric nuclear spiral arms. 12CO (2–1) and 12CO (3–2) observations with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope are compared with the ALMA observations. Because of the disturbed gas kinematics and the impractically long integration times required for higher angular resolution observations, none of the three galaxies is suitable for a future SMBH mass measurement. None the less, increasing the number of molecular gas observations of megamaser galaxies is valuable, and the ubiquitous disturbances suggest a link between large-scale gas properties and the existence of megamasers.

     
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  3. Context.Mapping molecular line emission beyond the bright low-JCO transitions is still challenging in extragalactic studies, even with the latest generation of (sub-)millimetre interferometers, such as ALMA and NOEMA.

    Aims.We summarise and test a spectral stacking method that has been used in the literature to recover low-intensity molecular line emission, such as HCN(1−0), HCO+(1−0), and even fainter lines in external galaxies. The goal is to study the capabilities and limitations of the stacking technique when applied to imaged interferometric observations.

    Methods.The core idea of spectral stacking is to align spectra of the low S/N spectral lines to a known velocity field calculated from a higher S/N line expected to share the kinematics of the fainter line (e.g. CO(1−0) or 21 cm emission). Then these aligned spectra can be coherently averaged to produce potentially high S/N spectral stacks. Here we used imaged simulated interferometric and total power observations at different S/N levels, based on real CO observations.

    Results.For the combined interferometric and total power data, we find that the spectral stacking technique is capable of recovering the integrated intensities even at low S/N levels across most of the region where the high S/N prior is detected. However, when stacking interferometer-only data for low S/N emission, the stacks can miss up to 50% of the emission from the fainter line.

    Conclusions.A key result of this analysis is that the spectral stacking method is able to recover the true mean line intensities in low S/N cubes and to accurately measure the statistical significance of the recovered lines. To facilitate the application of this technique we provide a public Python package, called PYSTACKER.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  4. ABSTRACT

    We present a study of the molecular gas of seven early-type galaxies with high angular resolution data obtained as part of the mm-Wave Interferometric Survey of Dark Object Masses (WISDOM) project with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. Using a fixed spatial-scale approach, we study the mass surface density (Σ) and velocity dispersion (σ) of the molecular gas on spatial scales ranging from 60 to 120 pc. Given the spatial resolution of our data (20–70 pc), we characterize these properties across many thousands of individual sightlines (≈50 000 at our highest physical resolution). The molecular gas along these sightlines has a large range (≈2 dex) of mass surface densities and velocity dispersions $\approx 40~{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ higher than those of star-forming spiral galaxies. It has virial parameters αvir that depend weakly on the physical scale observed, likely due to beam smearing of the bulk galactic rotation, and is generally supervirial. Comparing the internal turbulent pressure (Pturb) to the pressure required for dynamic equilibrium (PDE), the ratio Pturb/PDE is significantly less than unity in all galaxies, indicating that the gas is not in dynamic equilibrium and is strongly compressed, in apparent contradiction to the virial parameters. This may be due to our neglect of shear and tidal forces, and/or the combination of three-dimensional and vertical diagnostics. Both αvir and Pturb anticorrelate with the global star-formation rate of our galaxies. We therefore conclude that the molecular gas in early-type galaxies is likely unbound, and that large-scale dynamics likely plays a critical role in its regulation. This contrasts to the giant molecular clouds in the discs of late-type galaxies, that are much closer to dynamical equilibrium.

     
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  5. Carbon monoxide (CO) emission constitutes the most widely used tracer of the bulk molecular gas in the interstellar medium (ISM) in extragalactic studies. The CO-to-H 2 conversion factor, α 12 CO(1−0) , links the observed CO emission to the total molecular gas mass. However, no single prescription perfectly describes the variation of α 12 CO(1−0) across all environments within and across galaxies as a function of metallicity, molecular gas opacity, line excitation, and other factors. Using spectral line observations of CO and its isotopologues mapped across a nearby galaxy, we can constrain the molecular gas conditions and link them to a variation in α 12 CO(1−0) . Here, we present new, wide-field (10 × 10 arcmin 2 ) IRAM 30-m telescope 1 mm and 3 mm line observations of 12 CO, 13 CO, and C 18 O across the nearby, grand-design, spiral galaxy M101. From the CO isotopologue line ratio analysis alone, we find that selective nucleosynthesis and changes in the opacity are the main drivers of the variation in the line emission across the galaxy. In a further analysis step, we estimated α 12 CO(1−0) using different approaches, including (i) via the dust mass surface density derived from far-IR emission as an independent tracer of the total gas surface density and (ii) local thermal equilibrium (LTE) based measurements using the optically thin 13 CO(1–0) intensity. We find an average value of ⟨ α 12 CO(1 − 0) ⟩ = 4.4  ±  0.9  M ⊙  pc −2  (K km s −1 ) −1 across the disk of the galaxy, with a decrease by a factor of 10 toward the 2 kpc central region. In contrast, we find LTE-based α 12 CO(1−0) values are lower by a factor of 2–3 across the disk relative to the dust-based result. Accounting for α 12 CO(1−0) variations, we found significantly reduced molecular gas depletion time by a factor 10 in the galaxy’s center. In conclusion, our result suggests implications for commonly derived scaling relations, such as an underestimation of the slope of the Kennicutt Schmidt law, if α 12 CO(1−0) variations are not accounted for. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  6. Abstract

    Determining how the galactic environment, especially the high gas densities and complex dynamics in bar-fed galaxy centers, alters the star formation efficiency (SFE) of molecular gas is critical to understanding galaxy evolution. However, these same physical or dynamical effects also alter the emissivity properties of CO, leading to variations in the CO-to-H2conversion factor (αCO) that impact the assessment of the gas column densities and thus of the SFE. To address such issues, we investigate the dependence ofαCOon the local CO velocity dispersion at 150 pc scales using a new set of dust-basedαCOmeasurements and propose a newαCOprescription that accounts for CO emissivity variations across galaxies. Based on this prescription, we estimate the SFE in a sample of 65 galaxies from the PHANGS–Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array survey. We find increasing SFE toward high-surface-density regions like galaxy centers, while using a constant or metallicity-basedαCOresults in a more homogeneous SFE throughout the centers and disks. Our prescription further reveals a mean molecular gas depletion time of 700 Myr in the centers of barred galaxies, which is overall three to four times shorter than in nonbarred galaxy centers or the disks. Across the galaxy disks, the depletion time is consistently around 2–3 Gyr, regardless of the choice ofαCOprescription. All together, our results suggest that the high level of star formation activity in barred centers is not simply due to an increased amount of molecular gas, but also to an enhanced SFE compared to nonbarred centers or disk regions.

     
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  7. ABSTRACT

    We present a CO dynamical estimate of the mass of the supermassive black hole (SMBH) in three nearby early-type galaxies: NGC 0612, NGC 1574, and NGC 4261. Our analysis is based on Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) Cycle 3–6 observations of the 12CO(2–1) emission line with spatial resolutions of 14–58 pc (0.01″–0.26″). We detect disc-like CO distributions on scales from ≲ 200 pc (NGC 1574 and NGC 4261) to ≈10 kpc (NGC 0612). In NGC 0612 and NGC 1574 the bulk of the gas is regularly rotating. The data also provide evidence for the presence of a massive dark object at the centre of NGC 1574, allowing us to obtain the first measure of its mass, MBH = (1.0 ± 0.2) × 108 M⊙ (1σ uncertainty). In NGC 4261, the CO kinematics is clearly dominated by the SMBH gravitational influence, allowing us to determine an accurate black hole mass of (1.62 ± 0.04) × 109 M⊙ (1σ uncertainty). This is fully consistent with a previous CO dynamical estimate obtained using a different modelling technique. Signs of non-circular gas motions (likely outflow) are also identified in the inner regions of NGC 4261. In NGC 0612, we are only able to obtain a (conservative) upper limit of MBH ≲ 3.2 × 109 M⊙. This has likely to be ascribed to the presence of a central CO hole (with a radius much larger than that of the SMBH sphere of influence), combined with the inability of obtaining a robust prediction for the CO velocity curve. The three SMBH mass estimates are overall in agreement with predictions from the MBH − σ* relation.

     
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  8. Abstract The CO-to-H 2 conversion factor ( α CO ) is central to measuring the amount and properties of molecular gas. It is known to vary with environmental conditions, and previous studies have revealed lower α CO in the centers of some barred galaxies on kiloparsec scales. To unveil the physical drivers of such variations, we obtained Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array bands (3), (6), and (7) observations toward the inner ∼2 kpc of NGC 3627 and NGC 4321 tracing 12 CO, 13 CO, and C 18 O lines on ∼100 pc scales. Our multiline modeling and Bayesian likelihood analysis of these data sets reveal variations of molecular gas density, temperature, optical depth, and velocity dispersion, which are among the key drivers of α CO . The central 300 pc nuclei in both galaxies show strong enhancement of temperature T k ≳ 100 K and density n H 2 > 10 3 cm −3 . Assuming a CO-to-H 2 abundance of 3 × 10 −4 , we derive 4–15 times lower α CO than the Galactic value across our maps, which agrees well with previous kiloparsec-scale measurements. Combining the results with our previous work on NGC 3351, we find a strong correlation of α CO with low- J 12 CO optical depths ( τ CO ), as well as an anticorrelation with T k . The τ CO correlation explains most of the α CO variation in the three galaxy centers, whereas changes in T k influence α CO to second order. Overall, the observed line width and 12 CO/ 13 CO 2–1 line ratio correlate with τ CO variation in these centers, and thus they are useful observational indicators for α CO variation. We also test current simulation-based α CO prescriptions and find a systematic overprediction, which likely originates from the mismatch of gas conditions between our data and the simulations. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  9. ABSTRACT

    The mm-Wave Interferometric Survey of Dark Object Masses (WISDOM) is probing supermassive black holes (SMBHs) in galaxies across the Hubble sequence via molecular gas dynamics. We present the first WISDOM study of a luminous infrared galaxy with an active galactic nuclei (AGNs): Fairall 49. We use new ALMA observations of the CO(2 − 1) line with a spatial resolution of ∼80 pc together with ancillary HST imaging. We reach the following results: (1) The CO kinematics are well described by a regularly rotating gas disc with a radial inflow motion, suggesting weak feedback on the cold gas from both AGN and starburst activity; (2) The dynamically inferred SMBH mass is 1.6 ± 0.4(rnd) ± 0.8(sys) × 108 M⊙ assuming that we have accurately subtracted the AGN and starburst light contributions, which have a luminosity of ∼109 L⊙; (3) The SMBH mass agrees with the SMBH−stellar mass relation but is ∼50 times higher than previous estimates from X-ray variability; (4) The dynamically inferred molecular gas mass is 30 times smaller than that inferred from adopting the Galactic CO-to-H2 conversion factor (XCO) for thermalized gas, suggesting low values of XCO; (5) the molecular gas inflow rate increases steadily with radius and may be as high as ∼5 M⊙ yr−1. This work highlights the potential of using high-resolution CO data to estimate, in addition to SMBH masses, the XCO factor, and gas inflow rates in nearby galaxies.

     
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  10. ABSTRACT

    Galactic bars can drive cold gas inflows towards the centres of galaxies. The gas transport happens primarily through the so-called bar dust lanes, which connect the galactic disc at kpc scales to the nuclear rings at hundreds of pc scales much like two gigantic galactic rivers. Once in the ring, the gas can fuel star formation activity, galactic outflows, and central supermassive black holes. Measuring the mass inflow rates is therefore important to understanding the mass/energy budget and evolution of galactic nuclei. In this work, we use CO datacubes from the PHANGS-ALMA survey and a simple geometrical method to measure the bar-driven mass inflow rate on to the nuclear ring of the barred galaxy NGC 1097. The method assumes that the gas velocity in the bar lanes is parallel to the lanes in the frame co-rotating with the bar, and allows one to derive the inflow rates from sufficiently sensitive and resolved position–position–velocity diagrams if the bar pattern speed and galaxy orientations are known. We find an inflow rate of $\dot{M}=(3.0 \pm 2.1)\, \rm M_\odot \, yr^{-1}$ averaged over a time span of 40 Myr, which varies by a factor of a few over time-scales of ∼10 Myr. Most of the inflow appears to be consumed by star formation in the ring, which is currently occurring at a star formation rate (SFR) of $\simeq\!1.8\!-\!2 \, \rm M_\odot \, yr^{-1}$, suggesting that the inflow is causally controlling the SFR in the ring as a function of time.

     
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