PAH emission variations within the resolved starbursts of NGC 253 and NGC 1808*
European Southern Observatory, Karl-Schwarzschild-Strasse 2, 85748 Garching, Germany e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2 Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik, Postfach 1312, 85741 Garching, Germany
Accepted: 4 November 2004
In order to better characterise the usefulness of PAH emission as a tracer of star formation, we have undertaken a programme of 3 μm narrowband imaging of a sample of nearby template galaxies covering a wide range of metallicity, star formation activity, and nuclear activity. In the present paper we present first results of this programme: high spatial resolution images of PAH feature emission and the adjacent continuum emission from the central regions of the nearby starburst galaxies NGC 253 and NGC 1808, taken with ISAAC at the VLT-UT1. Globally, the feature emission is seen to peak on the central starburst regions of both sources. On smaller scales, however, we see no general spatial correlation or anti-correlation between the PAH feature emission and the location of sites of recent star formation, suggesting that the degree to which PAH feature emission traces starburst activity is more complicated than previously hypothesized based on results from data with lower spatial resolution. We do find spatial correlations, though, when we consider the feature-to-continuum ratio, which is low at the positions of known super star clusters in NGC 1808 as well as at the position of the IR peak in NGC 253. We take this to imply a decrease in the efficiency of PAH emission induced by the star formation, caused either by mechanical energy input into the ISM, photoionisation of the PAH molecules, or photodissociation of the PAH molecules. All three hypotheses are discussed. In addition, for the first time we present observations of PAH feature emission in the superwind of a starbursting system (NGC 253), providing strong support that winds are heavily mass-loaded and entrain substantial amounts of ambient ISM. We have also found a plausible connection between observed NaD absorption, H2, and PAHs above the plane of NGC 253. This observation has important implications for enriching galaxy halos and possibly the intergalactic medium with small dust grains.
Key words: infrared: ISM / ISM: lines and bands / infrared: galaxies / galaxies: starburst / galaxies: individual: NGC 253 / galaxies: individual: NGC 1808
© ESO, 2005