EDP Sciences
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Volume 383, Number 1, February III 2002
Page(s) 82 - 90
Section Extragalactic astronomy
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20011736

A&A 383, 82-90 (2002)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20011736

Neutral atomic carbon in centers of galaxies

F. P. Israel1 and F. Baas1, 2

1  Sterrewacht Leiden, PO Box 9513, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
2  Joint Astronomy Centre, 660 N. A'ohoku Pl., Hilo, Hawaii, 96720, USA

(Received 27 June 2001 / Accepted 30 November 2001 )

We present measurements of the emission from the centers of fifteen spiral galaxies in the ${\rm ^{3}P_{1}}$- ${\rm ^{3}P_{0}\,[CI]}$ fine-structure transition at 492 GHz. Observed galaxy centers range from quiescent to starburst to active. The intensities of neutral carbon, the J= 2-1 transition of ${\rm ^{13}CO}$ and the J= 4-3 transition of ${\rm ^{12}CO}$ are compared in matched beams. Most galaxy centers emit more strongly in [CI] than in ${\rm ^{13}CO}$ , completely unlike the situation pertaining to Galactic molecular cloud regions. [CI] intensities are lower than, but nevertheless comparable to J= 4-3 ${\rm ^{12}CO}$ intensities, again rather different from Galactic sources. The ratio of [CI] to ${\rm ^{13}CO}$ increases with the central [CI] luminosity of a galaxy; it is lowest for quiescent and mild starburst centers, and highest for strong starburst centers and active nuclei. Comparison with radiative transfer model calculations shows that most observed galaxy centers have neutral carbon abundances close to, or exceeding, carbon monoxide abundances , rather independent from the assumed model gas parameters. The same models suggest that the emission from neutral carbon and carbon monoxide, if assumed to originate in the same volumes, arises from a warm and dense gas rather than a hot and tenuous, or a cold and very dense gas. The observed [CI] intensities together with literature [CII] line and far-infrared continuum data likewise suggest that a significant fraction of the emission originates in medium-density gas ( n = 103- $10^{4}\,{\rm cm^{-3}}$), subjected to radiation fields of various strengths.

Key words: galaxies: ISM -- ISM: molecules -- radio lines: galaxies

Offprint request: F. P. Israel, israel@strw.leidenuniv.nl

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