EDP Sciences
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Volume 433, Number 2, April II 2005
Page(s) L17 - L20
Section Letters
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:200500010

A&A 433, L17-L20 (2005)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:200500010


Exceptional H $\mathsf{_{2}}$ emission in the Antennae galaxies: Pre-starburst shocks from the galaxy collision

M. Haas1, R. Chini1 and U. Klaas2

1  Astronomisches Institut, Ruhr-Universität Bochum (AIRUB), Universitätsstr. 150 / NA7, 44780 Bochum, Germany
    e-mail: haas@astro.rub.de
2  Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Königstuhl 17, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany

(Received 13 December 2004 / Accepted 20 January 2005 )

The collision of gas-rich galaxies is believed to produce strong shocks between their gas clouds which cause the onset of the observed bursts of extended star formation. However, the so far observed shock signatures in colliding galaxies can be explained essentially by winds from already existing massive stars and supernovae and thus do not give any evidence for an outstanding pre-starburst phase. Either pre-starburst gas shocks are too short-lived to be detected or one has to modify our perception of colliding galaxies. A dedicated analysis of ISOCAM-CVF mid-infrared spectral maps led us to the discovery of exceptional H$_{\rm 2}$ v = 0-0 S(3) $\lambda$ = 9.66 $\mu$m line emission from the "Antennae" galaxy pair, which is at an early stage of galaxy collision. Its H$_{\rm 2}$ line luminosity, normalized by the far-infrared luminosity, exceeds that of all other known galaxies and the strongest H$_{\rm 2}$ emission is spatially displaced from the known starbursts regions. This implies that most of the excited H$_{\rm 2}$ gas in the Antennae must be shocked due to the collision of the two galaxies. These observations indicate that the outstanding phase of pre-starburst shocks exists, and that they might be a key to our understanding of the formation of the first proto-galaxies.

Key words: galaxies: interacting -- galaxies: ISM -- galaxies: starburst -- galaxies: evolution -- galaxies: individual: Antennae

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