High-excitation molecular gas in local luminous AGN hosts
Argelander Institut für Astronomie, Auf dem Hügel 71, 53121 Bonn, Germany e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2 Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics, National Observatory of Athens, I. Metaxa & Vas. Pavlou Str., 15236 Palaia Penteli, Athens, Greece
3 Max-Planck-Institut für Radio Astronomie, Auf dem Hügel 69, 53121 Bonn, Germany e-mail: email@example.com
4 Department of Physics and Astronomy, State University of New York at Stony Brook, NY 11794-3800, USA e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
5 Department of Astronomy, University of Virginia, PO Box 400325, Charlottesville, VA 22904 and National Radio Astronomy Observatory, 520 Edgemont Road, Charlottesville, VA 22903, USA
6 Kapteyn Institute, University of Groningen, PO Box 800, 9700 AV Groningen, The Netherlands e-mail: email@example.com
Accepted: 25 September 2008
Aims. The discovery of large amounts of molecular gas in the hosts of luminous AGN in the local Universe offers a unique opportunity to study its physical conditions under the influence of starbursts and powerful AGN in great detail with present and future mm/sub-mm telescopes. Towards achieving this goal we present first results of multi-J CO line observations of such objects.
Methods. We made use of the mm/sub-mm receivers on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) to conduct observations of the CO J = 3-2, 2-1 lines in five local, optically powerful AGN and of the higher excitation CO J = 4-3 line in 3C 293 (a powerful radio galaxy).
Results. Luminous CO J = 3–2 emission and high CO (3-2)/(1-0) intensity ratios are found in all objects, indicating highly excited molecular gas. In 3C 293, an exceptionally bright CO J = 4-3 line with a high CO(4-3)/(1-0) ratio cannot be easily explained given its quiescent star-forming environment and very low AGN X-ray luminosity.
Conclusions. In 3C 293, shocks emanating from a well-known interaction of a powerful jet with a dense ISM may be responsible for the high excitation of its molecular gas on galaxy-wide scales. Star formation can readily account for the gas excitation in the rest of the objects, although high X-ray AGN luminosities can also contribute significantly in two cases. Measuring and eventually imaging CO (high-J)/(low-J) line ratios in local luminous QSO hosts can be done by a partially completed ALMA during its early phases of commissioning, promising a sensitive probe of starburst versus AGN activity in obscured environments at high linear resolutions.
Key words: ISM: molecules / radio lines: ISM / galaxies: active / galaxies: quasars: individual: I Zw 1 / galaxies: quasars: individual: Mrk 1048 / galaxies: individual: 3C 293
© ESO, 2008