EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 366, Number 2, February I 2001
Page(s) 439 - 450
Section Extragalactic astronomy
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20000109

A&A 366, 439-450 (2001)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20000109

Near-infrared line imaging of the starburst galaxies NGC 520, NGC 1614 and NGC 7714

J. K. Kotilainen1, J. Reunanen1, S. Laine2, 3, 4 and S. D. Ryder5

1  Tuorla Observatory, University of Turku, Väisäläntie 20, 21500 Piikkiö, Finland
2  Department of Physical Sciences, University of Hertfordshire, College Lane, Hatfield, Herts AL10 9AB, UK
3  Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0055, USA
4  Space Telescope Science Institute, 3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA
5  Anglo-Australian Observatory, PO Box 296, Epping, NSW 1710, Australia

(Received 9 August 2000 / Accepted 14 November 2000)

We present high spatial resolution ($\sim$0 fraction of arcsecond6) near-infrared broad-band JHK images and Br$\gamma$ 2.1661 $\mu$m and H2 1-0 S(1) 2.122 $\mu$m emission line images of the nuclear regions in the interacting starburst galaxies NGC 520, NGC 1614 and NGC 7714. The near-infrared emission line and radio morphologies are in general agreement, although there are differences in details. In NGC 1614, we detect a nuclear double structure in Br$\gamma$, in agreement with the radio double structure. We derive average extinctions of AK = 0.41 and AK = 0.18 toward the nuclear regions of NGC 1614 and NGC 7714, respectively. For NGC 520, the extinction is much higher, AK = 1.2-1.6. The observed H2/Br$\gamma$ ratios indicate that the main excitation mechanism of the molecular gas is fluorescence by intense UV radiation from clusters of hot young stars, while shock excitation can be ruled out. The starburst regions in all galaxies exhibit small Br$\gamma$ equivalent widths. Assuming a constant star formation model, even with a lowered upper mass cutoff of $M_{\rm u} = 30 M_\odot$, results in rather old ages (10-40 Myr), in disagreement with the clumpy near-infrared morphologies. We prefer a model of an instantaneous burst of star formation with $M_{\rm u} = 100$ $M_\odot$, occurring $\sim$6-7 Myr ago, in agreement with previous determinations and with the detection of W-R features in NGC 1614 and NGC 7714. Finally, we note a possible systematic difference in the amount of hot molecular gas between starburst and Seyfert galaxies.

Key words: galaxies: individual: NGC 520 -- galaxies: individual: NGC 1614 -- galaxies: individual: NGC 7714 -- galaxies: starburst -- infrared: galaxies -- stars: formation

Offprint request: J. K. Kotilainen, jarkot@astro.utu.fi

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