Letter to the Editor
CO(4–3) and CO(7–6) maps of the nucleus of NGC 253
Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Auf dem Hügel 69, 53121 Bonn, Germany e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Accepted: 9 May 2006
Context.Molecular line excitation studies of the nuclei of nearby starburst galaxies yield important information on the starburst phenomena, in particular on the temperature and density of the star-forming gas. Such studies also provide templates for high redshift galaxies with even more extreme star formation.
Aims.Fundamental constraints on the physical properties in the nuclear regions of external galaxies can be derived from the spectral energy distribution (i.e., integrated flux density vs. rotational quantum number) of CO rotational emission arising from warm gas.
Methods.The resolution and sensitivity of the APEX telescope makes it feasible to perform spatially resolved studies of submillimeter (submm) CO emission from the warm, dense gas in nearby starburst nuclei. Using the FLASH dual-channel heterodyne receiver we mapped emission in the CO and 7-6 lines toward the archetypical nuclear starburst galaxy NGC 253.
Results.Combining our new observations with data from the literature, we derive the CO line SED in the central 250 pc of NGC 253, which peaks near the 6-5 transition and has a shape very similar to that of M 82. All CO transitions in the central region can well be fitted with a single temperature/density Large Velocity Gradient (LVG) model. A good match to the observations is found by assuming kinetic gas temperatures that are comparable to the dust temperature (Tkin K) and a H2 density of order 104 cm-3.
Conclusions.Our very first APEX submm study of a nearby starburst nucleus (NGC 253) meaningfully constrains the physical properties of the star-forming molecular gas it contains. With broader band spectrometers and a chopping secondary coming soon, the impact of APEX on extragalactic astrophysics will be foreseeably significant.
Key words: ISM: molecules / galaxies: nuclei / galaxies: starburst
© ESO, 2006