EDP Sciences
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Volume 414, Number 1, January IV 2004
Page(s) 123 - 139
Section Galactic structure and dynamics
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20031633

A&A 414, 123-139 (2004)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20031633

Mid-infrared emission of galactic nuclei

TIMMI2 versus ISO observations and models
R. Siebenmorgen1, E. Krügel2 and H. W. W. Spoon3

1  European Southern Observatory, Karl-Schwarzschildstr. 2, 85748 Garching b. München, Germany
2  Max-Planck-Institut for Radioastronomy, Auf dem Hügel 69, Postfach 2024, 53010 Bonn, Germany
3  Kapteyn Institute, PO Box 800, 9700 AV Groningen, The Netherlands

(Received 24 June 2003 / Accepted 16 October 2003)

We investigate the mid-infrared radiation of galaxies that are powered by a starburst or by an AGN. For this end, we compare the spectra obtained at different spatial scales in a sample of infrared bright galaxies. ISO observations which include emission of the nucleus as well as most of the host galaxy are compared with TIMMI2 spectra of the nuclear region. We find that ISO spectra are generally dominated by strong PAH bands. However, this is no longer true when inspecting the mid-infrared emission of the pure nucleus. Here PAH emission is detected in starbursts whereas it is significantly reduced or completely absent in AGNs. A physical explanation of these new observational results is presented by examining the temperature fluctuation of a PAH after interaction with a photon. It turns out that the hardness of the radiation field is a key parameter for quantifying the photo-destruction of small grains. Our theoretical study predicts PAH evaporation in soft X-ray environments. Radiative transfer calculations of clumpy starbursts and AGN corroborate the observational fact that PAH emission is connected to starburst activity whereas PAHs are destroyed near an AGN. The radiative transfer models predict for starbursts a much larger mid-infrared size than for AGN. This is confirmed by our TIMMI2 acquisition images: We find that the mid-infrared emission of Seyferts is dominated by a compact core while most of the starbursts are spatially resolved.

Key words: infrared: galaxies -- galaxies: ISM -- galaxies: nuclei -- galaxies: dust

Offprint request: R. Siebenmorgen, rsiebenm@eso.org

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