EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 374, Number 2, August I 2001
Page(s) 421 - 434
Section Extragalactic astronomy
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20010717

A&A 374, 421-434 (2001)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20010717

The gas content of peculiar galaxies: Counterrotators and polar rings

D. Bettoni1, G. Galletta2, S. García-Burillo3 and A. Rodríguez-Franco4, 5

1  Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova, Vicolo Osservatorio 5, 35122 Padova, Italy
2  Dipartimento di Astronomia, Università di Padova, Vicolo Osservatorio 2, 35122 Padova, Italy
3  Observatorio Astronómico Nacional-OAN, Apartado 1143, 28800 Alcalá de Henares-Madrid, Spain
4  Departamento de Matemática Aplicada (Biomatemática) Sección Departamental de Optica, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Av. Arcos de Jalón s/n, 28037 Madrid, Spain
5  Nobeyama Radio Observatory, Nobeyama, Minamimaki, Minamisaku, Nagano 384-1305, Japan

(Received 23 February 2001 / Accepted 7 May 2001)

This paper studies the global ISM content in a sample of 104 accreting galaxies, including counterrotators and polar rings, which spans the entire Hubble sequence. The molecular, atomic and hot gas content of accretors is compared to a newly compiled sample of normal galaxies. We present results of a small survey of the J=1-0 line of 12CO with the 15 m SEST telescope on a sample of 11 accretors (10 counterrotators and 1 polar ring). The SEST sample is enlarged with published data from 48 galaxies, for which observational evidence of counterrotation in the gas and/or the stars has been found. Furthermore, the available data on a sample of 46 polar ring galaxies has been compiled. In order to explore the existence of an evolutionary path linking the two families of accretors, the gas content of counterrotators and polar rings is compared. It was found that the normalized content of cold gas ( $M_{\rm gas}/L_B$) in polar rings is ~1 order of magnitude higher than the reference value derived for normal galaxies. The inferred gas masses are sufficient to stabilize polar rings through self-gravity. In contrast, it was found that the cold gas content of counterrotators is close to normal for all galaxy types. Although counterrotators and polar rings probably share a common origin, the gas masses estimated here confirm that light gas rings accreted by future counterrotators may have evolved faster than the self-gravitating structures of polar rings. In this scenario, the transformation of atomic into molecular gas could be enhanced near the transition region between the prograde and the retrograde disks, especially in late-type accretors characterized by a high content of primordial gas. This is tentatively confirmed in this work: the measured H2/HI ratio seems larger in counterrotators than in normal or polar ring galaxies for types later than S0s.

Key words: galaxies: ISM -- galaxies: interactions -- galaxies: evolution -- galaxies: peculiar -- radio lines: galaxies -- submillimeter

Offprint request: G. Galletta, galletta@pd.astro.it

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